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Calcutta Madras 


Final blessing (Litlata) 







('E. S. STEVENS') 





' The conclusion is, that in the study of ancient 
religions we must begin, not with myth, but 
with ritual and traditional usage.' 



I HAVE been assisted in the publication of this book by 
two learned bodies : the Royal Asiatic Society and the 
Hibbert Trustees. My first thanks, therefore, are due to 
them for their generous help. To the President of the 
former, Professor D. S. Margoliouth, M.A., D.Litt., 
F.B.A., I am peculiarly indebted for his great kindness in 
reading the manuscript and in bringing my book to the 
notice of his Council. 

Thanks are also due to the following : 

1 . To the British School of Archaeology in Egypt for 
permission to reprint part of my article on 'The Cult-Hut 
of the Mandaeans' which appeared in Ancient Egypt and 
the Far East^ Part I, June 1934. 

2. To the British School of Archaeology in Iraq for 
permission to reprint part of an article on 'Mandaean 
Writings' which appeared in Iraq^ vol. i, Part 2, Novem- 
ber 1934 (Oxford University Press). 

3. To various ministers and officials of the Iraq 
Government for their never-failing courtesy and assistance. 

4. To Mr. Spencer Curtis Brown for much kind advice 
about publication. 

5. To friends to whom I am indebted for suggestions, 
corrections, and help; amongst them, Miss Dinoo 
Bastavala; Mr. M. P. Kharegat; Herr Ing. Georg 
Popper, who helped me to procure books of reference 
inaccessible in Iraq and is responsible for the excellent 
plans of the mandi\ to the Rev. Professor A. Guillaume, 
the late Professors Scheftelowitz and Burkitt, and 
above all, to Dr. Moses Gaster. Without the constant 
encouragement and interest of the last-named friend this 
book might never have reached completion. Special 
thanks are also due to Colonel D. M. F. Hoysted, C.B.E., 
D.S.O., Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, for the 
patience and kindness he has shown to me throughout, 
to the Rev. W. H. Drummond, D.D., LL.D., the Secre- 
tary of the Hibbert Trust, and lastly, to my daughter, 

4363 b 

viii Prefatory Note 

Miss M. S. Drower, for her competent assistance and 

I should prolong the list, for many friends and strangers 
have either given me help or good counsel. Lack of space 
alone forbids their enumeration. The tale of gratitude, 
however, would be incomplete were I to omit to set down 
my obligation to the Mandaeans themselves, both laymen 
and priests. As the instruction of the latter was sometimes 
given sub rosa I will not particularize, but amongst the 
laymen I thank my old and valued friend Hirmiz bar 
Anhar for many happy hours. May he live long to 
produce his beautiful engravings on silver and to enjoy 
the light of Shamish and the breath of Ayar Rba! 

I am conscious that the transliteration of Mandaean 
leaves much to be desired. Vowels, in general, are pro- 
nounced as in Italian, though / may vary from the / as 
pronounced in 'Lido', to the French e and the English e 
in 'met', a is sometimes short (for instance in manda 
where the first syllable is pronounced as in English), and 
sometimes very broad, as in matha (pronounced mawtha). 
Prayers and formulae are given sometimes as written, 
sometimes as pronounced. Consistency is difficult, and 
I am aware that I have not achieved it. The book, how- 
ever, is not addressed to the philologist or linguist. 

E. S. D. 


August^ 1937 



GLOSSARY ....... xiii 

INTRODUCTION ....... xv 







V. MARRIAGE ....... 59 





OR TARMIDA ....... 146 


ZIBRA . . . . . . . .169 





NOTE .249 


A. CREATION . . . . . .251 


C. THE CREATION OF MAN . . . .257 

D. AND E. THE FLOOD . . . . .258 




x Contents 

NESS . . . . . . .269 







X. THE MILLENNIUM . . . . . .308 



THE MOON ....... 326 

XIV. THE KANSHI uZAHLA . . . . .330 

XV. THE HAUNTINGS . . . . . .333 



XVIII. THE KAFTAR . . . . . -349 


XX. SHAIKH ZIBID . . . . . -353 





AND HIS SON . . . . . .369 



INDEX . . . . . . . .405 


Sacraments. Final blessing .... Frontispiece 

1. a. Mandaeans of priestly caste, b. Hirmiz bar Anhar in his silver 

shop in Baghdad ..... Facing p. 2 

2. a. Priest wearing rasta. b. Old woman wearing rasta . 32 

3. a. Looping up the sadra. b. Placing myrtle wreath on head . 34 

4. Slaughter of a Chicken, a . The preliminary rahmi. b. Ablution of 

margna. c. The slaughter of a chicken . . .48 

5. a. Reed-hut village, b. Subbi boat-builders pitching a boat . 52 

6. Marriage, a. The Wedding Procession. The bride, b. The rites 

inside the andiruna . . . . . .64 

7. Marriage, a. Bringing the clothes, b. Bridegroom holding ganzibra's 

nasifa ....... 66 

8. Marriage, a. The bridegroom eating half the sa. b. Bride and 

bridegroom after marriage . . . . .68 

9. a. Rapidly disappearing Mandaean graves, b. Mandelta built by 

a priest ....... 80 

10. Baptism, a. Rishama. b. Preliminary prayer in the yardna . 102 

11. a. Ritual apparatus, b. Consecration of myrtle wreath . 106 

12. a. Consecration of the banner, b. The banner ready for use 108 

13. Baptism, a. The triple submersion, b. Dipping the forehead no 

14. Baptism, a. Baptism of infant, b. Mixing dough for the pihtha 112 

15. Ceremonial washing of pots . . . . .114 

1 6. Baptism, a. The first kushta. b. The blessing in the water . 116 

17. Sacraments, a. The signing with sesame, b. Giving the 

pihtha . . . . . . .118 

1 8. Sacraments, a. Giving the mambuha. b. The kushta . 120 

19. a. The Mandi, Litlata. b. The Mandi, Qal'at Salih . .124 

20. Reed guest-house, framework showing shebdb and ahtar . 126 

21. a. Jemdli type hut. b. Mandi at Litlata . . .128 

22. Yearly Consecration of Cult-hut, a. The lustration of facade, b. The 

cleansed mandi . . . . . .132 

23. Consecration of Cult-hut, a. Sacrifice of the dove. b. Pounding of 

the dates and sesame . . . . .134 

24. Consecration of Cult-hut, a. The slaughter of the sheep, b. In fore- 

ground, a priest bakes meat. In background, the ganzibra prays 
silently before sacrificing the dove . . . .136 

xii List of Plates 

25. a. 7.idqa brikha before baptism of polluted priest, b. and c. Triple 

baptism of polluted priest . . . Facing p. 176 

26. a. Lofani in a private house, b. Panja. Sacrifice of sheep for 

lofani ....... 204 

27. a. Lofani: the breaking of bread, b. Slaughter of sheep for ztiqa 

brikha ....... 206 

28. a. 7,idqa brikha. Preparations, b. Kneading dough for the 

fatiri ....... 208 

29. tf. The sa. b. The aha ba c[ mania . . . .216 
Note. Geographical names are printed without diacritical signs. 


Note. Pronounce like Italian. 

Ahaba d Mania (pronounced Hava d Mant). The Giving of Garments. 
A form ofzidya brikha for those who have died not wearing the ritual 

Andiruna. A ritual hut built for marriage rites and the consecration of a 

Arthur a. (Thus pronounced, but more often written nhurd). Light. 

Brihi. Fire-saucer. 

Burzinqa. Turban. 

Butha (plur. butha or bawatha). Petition, prayer, section in book of 

Dejwa (plur. Deyvi}, Written daizua. A div, evil spirit. 
'I Drabsha (pron; dravsha, drafsha). A banner, standard. Also a ray of light. 

Dukhrana. Mention, remembrance by mentioning. 

eHshukha. See Hshukha. 

Fatira (plut.fatirta, pronounced^/a/ici^. The round unleavened sacred 
bread at the ritual meals for~tKedead. The word also means 'de- 
parted'. Cf. J. 1155. 

II Ganzibra (proii.jganzfvre, ganzowra]. Plural, ganzibria (Tpion.anzj@r). 
Head-priest. (Cf. ganzavara O.Pers. = treasurer). 

Gdada. White cloth to insulate contamination or protect from contamina- 

Hallali. A ritually and racially pure Mandaean. 

Hamra. Water in which white grapes or sultanas have been pressed out. 

Hazvan. Mortar. 

Hava d Mant. See Ahaba d Mania. 

Himiana. Ritual girdle. 
$ Hshukha (pron. eHshukha}. Darkness. 

Ingirtha (*ngirtd). Letter, message in portable form. 

Jem alt (Arabic). A reed hut with a pent roof. 

Kangana. A clay ring used as a stand or seat. 
/ Kaptha (pron. keptha). Small ritual drinking bowl. 

KHla. (Myrtle) wreath. 

Ksuya. See Sadra. 

Kushta. Right, troth, the ritual clasp of the right hand. 

Kukh (Arabic). Hut. 

Lofani. Communion, ritual meal for the dead eaten by laymen. 
//' Malka (pron. Melkd). King, spirit of power. 

Malwasha. Zodiac religious name. 

Mambuha, or Mambugha. Sacramental water. 

Manda. The name given to a dwelling, especially to the cult-hut (as in 
D.C. 9 and D.C. 24). Colloquially pronounced mandi. 

xiv Glossary of Words Commonly Occurring 

Mandelta. A triple betyl. 

Margna. The ritual staff. 

Mshunia Kushta. The ideal and ethereal double of the Earth. 

Masiqta (pron. masekhtka) . Mass for the dead, a ritual to assist the soul 

to rise from material worlds into the worlds of light. Might be 

translated 'raising-up'. 
Melka. See Malka. 

/ ( Misra (plur. misria, pron. misri). A furrow to shut out pollution and en- 
close purified areas. 

Nasifa. Stole-like strip of white cloth or muslin. 
Nhura (Anhura). Light. 
Niara. Bowl or dish. 
Paisaq (pron. peysaq). Priest debarred from all priestly duties but that of 

performing marriage rites for women not virgin. 
Pandama. The cloth which covers the lower part of the face during some 

parts of ritual, or at a funeral. 

Panja. Colloquial for Parwanaia, q.v. 'The Five (days)' (Persian). 
Parwanaia. The five intercalary days. 
Pihtha (pron. pehtha). The sacramental wafer. 
Qanina. Bottle for sacramental water. 
Qintka, Qimtha. A clay box-stand. 
Qauya. A terra-cotta cube for holding incense. 
Rabat (written Rba, pron. r abbey}. A rabbi, master, initiating priest, or 


Rahmia (pron. rahmi). Devotions, prescribed preliminary prayers. 
Rasta. The ritual dress. 
Ratna. Modern Mandaean colloquial dialect. 
Rishama. The minor daily and preliminary ritual ablutions. 
Sa . A roll or scroll of bread used in ritual meals for the dead. Apparently 

represents the phallus. 
Sabbi (plur. 8 abb a). See Subbi. 
Sadra. The sacred shirt. 
Sarifah (Arabic). Reed hut. 
Sharwala. Drawers, leggings. 
SJiganda. An acolyte (literally, 'messenger'). 

Skwalia. Candidate for priesthood. Pronounced as written with final 'a'. 
Subbi (plur. Subba). Mandaean, one who immerses. 
Skandola. The magic signet-ring. 
Tabutha. The sacred food at ritual meals. 
Tarmida. Priest. 
Tura. Mountain. 

*Uthra (plur. *uthria, pron. *uthr'i). A good spirit. 
Yalufa (plur.ya/ujfia, pron.ya/uji). A literate person. 
Tardna. Running water, river, a pool of flowing water. 
Zrazta. Scroll on which a protective charm is written. 
Zidya brikha (pron. zedqa brikha}. A ritual meal for the dead. 


IN the following pages an attempt is made to relate what 
the author has seen, heard, and observed of the Man- 
daeans of Iraq and Iran. Observations were made over 
a number of years and furnish a considerable body of new 
evidence as to their customs, beliefs, cults, and magic. 
This evidence, we submit, is useful, not only to the student 
of anthropology, folk-lore, and ethnology, but to students 
of the history of religions, for the Mandaeans are what 
the doctor calls a case of arrested development. Their 
cults, which are regarded by them as more sacred than 
their books, and older, have been tenaciously retained; 
their ritual, in all its detail, most carefully preserved by a 
priesthood who regard a slip in procedure as a deadly sin. 
Segregated since the coming of Islam from those amongst 
whom they dwell by peculiarities of cult, custom, language, 
and religion, they have kept intact and inviolate the 
heritage which they had from their fathers. 

The evidence so far laid before scholars has been 
almost entirely confined to some of the Mandaean 
religious literature. This aroused much premature contro- 
versy amongst theologians as to the value of Mandaean 
traditions to students of the New Testament, especially 
where the Fourth Gospel is in question. I hope that 
the information given here may go far to solve such 
problems. As regards study of the Mandaeans at first- 
hand, the fleeting observations of travellers and casual 
observers have been superficial, for they are a shy and 
secretive people, and do not readily disclose their beliefs 
or explain their cults. Petermann's three months in the 
marshes of Lower Iraq represent the only effort at 
scientific study at first hand, while Siouffi, whose account 
represents the greater part of what is known about 
the community apart from its books, never saw a rite 
with his own eyes, but was entirely dependent on the 
report of a renegade Subbi. Both these observers re- 
mained on the surface and did not penetrate deeply into 

4363 c 

xvi Introduction 

the spirit of the people or arrive at the inner meaning of 
the cults. 

As for Arab observers, from the earliest time they were 
dependent upon hearsay, and their reports can only be 
accepted as such. The same may be said about the 
earliest account we have about the Mandaeans, that of 
the Syriac writer Bar Konai (in the Scholion, A.D. 792), 
who writes as a controversialist, ready to belittle a heretic 
sect. This writer does, however, give us clues which 
go far to disprove his own account of the Mandaeans, 
which I shall discuss later. 

The evidence of Arab authors is, for the most part, 
concerned with the Harranian Sabians, a people with 
whom primitive pagan usages seem to have lingered until 
late into the Moslem era. They were said, by a Christian 
writer, to have adopted the name Sabians in order to 
profit by the tolerance offered by Islam to the 'people of a 
book', the true 'Sabians' or Sabba, of the marshes of 

J S 

Lower Iraq. In the mass of hearsay which Arab authors 
bring forward there is, however, a good deal to indicate 
that the Harranians had points of common belief with the 
orthodox Mandaeans, and that the learned Sabians of the 
Caliph's capital chose to assume Neoplatonic terms in 
speaking of their religion in order to lend an air of 
scholarship and philosophy to their tenets. Magianism 
was still alive and hated, and any semblance of relationship 
with Persian beliefs was to be avoided. The existence of the 
name Zahrun amongst these court philosophers may be 
adduced as a proof of their identity with the Mandaeans, 
for Zahrun is one of the Mandaean spirits of light who, 
together with Shamish (Shamash), ride in the sun-vessel 
across the sky. It was easy for them to camouflage the 
Mazdean nameHormuz, 1 Hirmiz, Hirmis (Ahura-Mazda) 
into the name Hermes, and proclaim that the Egyptian 
Hermes was one of their 'prophets'. Al-BirunJ, a Persian 
himself, when not quoting from other Arab authors about 
the Harranians, gives a just estimate of their beliefs (p. 1 8 7) : 

'All, however, we know of them is that they profess monotheism 
and describe God as exempt from anything that is bad, using in 

Introduction xvii 

their description the Via Negatioms, not the Via Positionis. E.g. 
they say "he is indeterminate, he is invisible, he does not wrong, he 
is not injust". They call him by the Nomina Pu/cherrtma, but only 
metaphorically, since a real description of him is excluded according 
to them. The rule of the universe they attribute to the celestial 
globe and its bodies, which they consider as living, speaking, hearing, 
and seeing beings. And the fires they hold in great consideration.' 

He states that Zoroaster 'belonged to the sect of the 

He mentions three prayers at sunrise, noon, and 

'Their prayer is preceded by purification and washing. They 
also wash themselves after a pollution. They do not circumcise 
themselves, not being ordered to do so, as they maintain. Most of 
their regulations about women and their penal law are similar to 
those of the Muslims, whilst others, relating to pollution caused by 
touching dead bodies, &c., are similar to those of the Thora.' (p. 
1 8 8, Sachau's translation.) 

Al-Birun! (writing at the beginning of the eleventh 
century A.D.) is positive about the 'real Sabians', who are, 
he says (p. 188) 'the remnants of the Jewish tribes who 
remained in Babylonia when the other tribes left it for 
Jerusalem in the days of Cyrus and Artaxerxes. These 
remaining tribes . . . adopted a system mixed up of 
Magism and Judaism.' 

Chwolson, in his monumental book about the 
Sabians, was at pains to show that the Harranians could 
not have had real religious union with the Mandaeans, 
because the former openly 'worshipped' the planets, 
while the latter held planet-worship in abhorrence. I 
must here examine that statement. 

Recently, an Arab author who had been a student for 
some time in Lower Iraq wrote an article in an Egyptian 
periodical about the Subba, or Mandaeans, in which he 
described them as star-worshippers. Indignation broke 
out amongst the Mandaean priesthood, for it was the old 
accusation of paganism, so imperilling to Moslem tolera- 
tion. Legal proceedings were taken against the author, 
and zganzibra, or head-priest, was dispatched to Baghdad 

xviii Introduction 

armed with the Ginza Rba, the Great Treasure, to trans- 
late before witnesses passages in the holy writ denouncing 
the worship of planets. (It is improbable that he would 
have brought holy books such as the Diwan Abathur into 
court, nor would some passages in the Drasha d Yahya 
have helped his cause.) 

In truth, the Mandaeans do not adore the heavenly 
bodies. But they believe that stars and planets contain 
animating principles, spirits subservient and obedient 
to Melka d Nhura (the King of Light), and that the lives 
of men are governed by their influences. With these 
controlling spirits are their doubles of darkness. In the 
sun-boat stands the beneficent Shamish with symbols of 
fertility and vegetation, but with him is his baleful aspect, 
Adona, 2 as well as guardian spirits of light. The Man- 
daeans invoke spirits of light only, not those of darkness. 

The fact that all priests are at the same time astrologers 
leads inevitably to contradictions. Those who read this 
book will see how easy it is to misjudge the matter. In 
the union of function, the Mandaean priests inherit the 
traditions of the country. The baru and ashipu priests of 
ancient Babylonia had functions and rituals close to those 
in use amongst the Mandaean priesthood of to-day, 3 and 
the name of the Magian priests was so closely associated 
with their skill in incantation and astrology that their 
name has become incorporated in the word 'magic'. 

Similarly many Mandaean priests, in spite of the Ginza's 
prohibition of such practices, derive part of their income 
from the writing of amulets, and from sorcery, when 
legitimate fees are insufficient for their needs. 

The most important material here assembled is, I think 
it will be acknowledged, the account of the various Man- 
daean ritual meals. Inclined at first to see in these relics 
of Marcionite Christianity or of the gnostic rituals of 
Bardaisan, I perceived later that the Mandaean rituals are 
closer to Mazdean sources than has hitherto been sus- 
pected. Resemblances between the Mandaean, Nestorian 
Christian, and Parsi rituals are strong, but, as the ideas 
which underlie the Mandaean and Parsi rites are identical 

Introduction xix 

whereas those of Christianity have travelled wide, I sub- 
mit that the Mandaean cults are nearer in essentials to 
some Iranian original than they are to primitive Christian- 
ity, although the latter, there is no doubt, may have been 
intimately related to Iranian models at its inception in 
Judaea or Galilee. 

Ritual eating for the dead, or the belief that the dead 
derive benefit from foods ritually consumed in their name 
is, of course, a belief which goes back into primitive times, 
and is found not only amongst the Sumerians and Baby- 
lonians, but amongst many simple peoples. In my notes, 
however, I have confined myself to references to such 
practices in the Middle East alone, past and present. 

The great alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates 
lie between the Far East and Near East and in constant 
contact with both. From earliest times, highroads have 
run from the uplands of Iran, from the steppes of Asia, 
. from the deserts of Arabia, from the plains of India, 
through what is now modern Iraq, to the Mediterranean 
seaboard. From the first its inhabitants have been subject 
to influences from all quarters of the civilized globe and 
ruled by race after race. There could be no better forcing- 
ground for syncretistic thought. Babylonia and the king- 
doms of Persia and Media offered natural conditions 
favourable to the growth of religious conceptions com- 
promising between ancient traditions and cults, and ideas 
which had travelled from the old civilization of China by 
way of the Vedic philosophers of India ideas which 
spiritualized, revived, and inspired man's belief in the 
immortality of the soul, its origin in the Divine Being, and 
the existence of beneficent ancestral spirits. Moreover, 
in the five centuries before Christ, there was a steady 
infiltration of Jewish, Egyptian, Phoenician, and Greek 
influences into Babylonia. Before the Captivities, Jewish 
communities of traders and bankers established themselves 
in the land of the two rivers, while mercenaries and mer- 
chants passed to and fro between the Far East and the 
seaboards of Egypt, Phoenicia, and Greece. 

The soldier and the merchant, though they contributed 

xx Introduction 

as intermediaries in the exchange of ideas, could never, 
however, have been more than passive 'carriers' of 
religious thought. In Mandaean legends, as well as in 
those of India and Persia, one finds perpetual reference 
to wandering dardwish^ religious wanderers who, like 
Hirmiz Shah in the Mandaean story, like Gautama the 
Buddha in India, or, in medieval times, Guru Nanak, set 
out in search of intellectual and spiritual peace. Specu- 
lation in the West is mostly conducted from a chair: the 
adventurer into the realms of thought goes no farther 
than the laboratory or the study. In the East, seekers 
after truth were peripatetic : their intellectual vagabondage 
was physical as well. It is certain that where the merchant 
penetrated, religious wanderers followed ; travelling philo- 
sophers, ranging from China to India, Baluchistan, and 
Persia, and from Persia and Iraq to the Mediterranean, 
using the passes of Kurdistan and the waterways of Iraq. 
The Oriental loves metaphysical argument and seeks it: 
the higher his type, the more addicted he is to this form 
of mental exercise, and the readier to listen to the opinions 
of a guest. The result, a leaven of unorthodoxy amongst the 
intellectual, eventually spread to the masses, first, possibly, 
as secret heresies, and then as new forms of religion. 

Here lies the importance of the Mandaeans. Extremely 
tenacious, while adopting the new at some far distant 
syncretistic period, they also conserved the old so religi- 
ously and faithfully that one can disentangle the threads 
here and there, and point to this as Babylonian, to that as 
Mazdean, to this as belonging to a time when animal 
flesh was forbidden, to that as suggesting a phase when 
zealous reformers endeavoured to purge out some ancient 
and inherent beliefs. 

At such a period as the last-named, the scattered 
religious writings of the Mandaeans were gathered 
together and edited. One may surmise that the editors 
and collectors were refugees, sophisticated priests who, 
returning to peaceful communities in Lower Iraq, were 
scandalized at their incorrigible paganism. The emended 
writings breathe reform and denunciation. 

Introduction xxi 

The core or nucleus, of the Mandaean religion, through 
all vicissitudes and changes, is the ancient worship of the 
principles of life and fertility. The Great Life is a personi- 
fication of the creative and sustaining force of the universe, 
but the personification is slight, and spoken of always in 
the impersonal plural, it remains mystery and abstraction. 
The symbol of the Great Life is 'living water', that is 
flowing water, or yardna* This is entirely natural in a 
land where all life, human, animal, and vegetable, clings 
to the banks of the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates. 
It follows that one of the central rites is immersion in 
flowing water. The second great vivifying power is light, 
which is represented by personifications of light (Melka d 
Nhura and the battalions of melki or light spirits), who 
bestow such light-gifts as health, strength, virtue, and 
justice. In the ethical system of the Mandaeans, as in that 
of the Zoroastrians, cleanliness, health of body, and ritual 
obedience must be accompanied by purity of mind, health 
of conscience, and obedience to moral laws. This dual 
application was characteristic of the cults of Anu and Ea 
in Sumerian times and Bel and Ea in Babylonian times, 
so that, if Mandaean thought originated or ripened under 
Iranian and Far Eastern influences, it had roots in a soil 
where similar ideals were already familiar and where 
ablution cults and fertility rites had long been in practice. 

The third great essential of the religion is the belief in 
the immortality of the soul, and its close relationship with 
the souls of its ancestors, immediate and divine. Ritual 
meals are eaten in proxy for the dead ; and the souls of the 
dead, strengthened and helped, give assistance and com- 
fort to the souls of the living. 

It remains, in this introduction, to say something about 
my methods in collecting the material here assembled. 
I first came into contact with the Subba in 1923, but did 
not read the translated holy books until 1931. This led 
me to the study of the language and then to that of un- 
translated manuscripts. Manifestly ill-equipped for the 
latter task, I here make apologies for possible inaccuracy 
in rendering. I have august precedent for mistakes, for 

xxii Introduction 

Lidzbarski himself, who has furnished us with the finest 
translations of the major holy books, has fallen into error 
here and there when it comes to rendering passages dealing 
with cults. All his fine mastery of Semitic languages could 
not tell him what only a knowledge of the cults themselves, 
and familiarity with local conditions, can explain. 

I found it necessary not only to witness cults and cere- 
monies several times before arriving at a relatively proper 
estimate or accurate observation, but to learn from priests 
the ritual used at them. Some ceremonies, indeed, I have 
been unable to witness, but wherever this is the case, 
I have asked so many persons about the procedure that 
I hope a more or less correct impression has resulted. 
Incomplete and faulty as my survey is, however, it is 
better than none, and, as circumstance may intervene at 
any time to prevent my further continuance in the country, 
I offer it as it is. 

When collecting information, I rely on memory as little 
as possible, making notes at the moment of observation 
and writing down sentences as I hear them. Legends 
were taken down verbatim, if I may so term the mixture 
of English and Arabic in which they were scribbled. In 
cases where I was unable to find the mot juste^ I wrote the 
Arabic phonetically, and if unable to follow the narrator, 
I checked him, and elicited the meaning of what he had 
said. I am no Arabic scholar, but the vocabulary employed 
by the common people in Iraq is a limited one and 
after fifteen or sixteen years' residence in the country, I 
have acquired a working knowledge of the colloquial 
speech. All instruction, and all the legends, were given 
to me in Arabic, with an occasional Mandaean word, for 
the ratna (spoken Mandaean) is falling into disuse in 
Iraq, and Arabic is spoken generally by Mandaeans all 
over the country. 

I made many visits to the various Mandaean centres; 
in Iraq to Al-'Amarah, Qal'at Salih, Nasoriyah, Suq-esh- 
Shuyukh, and Halfayah; in Persia to Muhammerah and 
Ahwaz (the Persian Nasoriyah, as the Mandaeans call it), 
for only in the larger communities can the ceremonies and 

Introduction xxiii 

cults be seen with ease. All these places are a full day, or 
two days, from Baghdad by rail and car. Had good 
fortune placed me nearer, this book would be better 


1. Hirmiz is still a popular name with the Subba, and Hormuzd with 
Nestorian and Chaldean Christians. 

2. Adona\ 'Lord'. In an illustration to the Diwan Abathur (reproduced 
on p. 77), Adona is identified with Shamish (Babylonian, Shamash, the 
sun-god). The mast of the sun-boat, with its flaming standard, is held on 
the right by a figure with sprigs of foliage for hair, beneath which is written: 
'This is the likeness of Shamish, Adona is his name.' In the Drasha d Yahya 
and Haran Gawaitha the mistaken 'Adonai' ('my lord') is used, and this 
form was used by a narrator describing the sun-boat (p. 77). 

3 . Earn and ashipu priests. See Campbell Thompson's Semitic Magic, 
pp. xxi ff~. As with the Mandaeans, disease, pollution, transgression against 
taboo, and breaking of social laws necessitated purifications received at the 
hands of a priest. The baru and ashipu priests of Babylonian and neo- 
Babylonian times, like Mandaean priests, wore white. The baru priest was 
ordered to sanctify himself, put on a clean garment, and prepare a sacrament 
of sweet bread from wheaten flour, salt, and water, following a procedure 
not dissimilar in its essentials from that of the Mandaean priest when he 
prepares the sacramental bread, or pihtha. 

Zimmern translates a fragment giving directions for the purification of a 
king by an ashipu priest: 

The king shall pour ... in the vessel 

And thus speak, 'May these . . . 

May my evil deeds and my ... be taken from me, 

That I may be clean and live before Shamash.* 

As soon as thou hast done this, the king shall wash in water, 

Put on a clean garment, wash his hands clean, &c. ^ 

(Die Beschworungstafelti Surpu, p. 127). 

Like the Mandaean tarmida, the baru priest had a novitiate and an 
initiation. Shamash was his especial patron, and the cult of the sun-god 
demanded purity and ablutions so exacting that the baru priests, like the 
tartnidi, formed a special caste. 

These priests attributed their origin, says Zimmern (Ritualtafeln fur 
den Wahrsager, Beitrage zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion, p. 116), 
to a certain En-me-dur-an-ki, king of Sippar, in which city there was an 
especial cult of the sun-god. Zimmern identifies this king with Enoch, 
seventh forefather of man in the seven-branched genealogy of Genesis. 
Similarly, Mandaean priests count Anush ('Annush, Enoch) the first priest. 
Further, the asjiipu's functions as white magician resemble those of the 
Mandaean priest, whose duties still include exorcism of evil spirits and 
disease, the writing of horoscopes, and of charms and amulets. 

xxiv Introduction 

To refer again to Enoch (the word means 'man' and he seems to be, like 
Adam, a personification of the human principle) the association is preserved 
to-day in a curious manner. The Arabs have given Enoch the name 'Idrls' 
(in reference to his character as teacher root drs), and it is a habit in 
Baghdad to pay visits to his reputed tomb, called Sayyid Idris, which lies 
in a village near Baghdad, on Sundays, and particularly on Easter Sunday. 
The pilgrims are Moslems, not Christians. 

4. Yardna. Mandaeans say that this means 'river' or 'flowing water' 
and has no reference to the river Jordan in Palestine. By Mandaeans, both 
Jordan and Nile are called the Ardana or Ardan, and I have heard the term 
Ardan applied to the Nile by an Iraqi Jew. In ratna the word is used to 
designate any river, and usually in preference to the word nahra, which 
word is probably borrowed from the Arabic nahr, a river. (The root nhr 
shows how closely the meanings 'light' and 'water' are related in the Semitic 
mind. In Mandaic we get nahr a, river, and nhura light; in Arabic nahr, 
river and nahdr, day; in Hebrew ndhdr, river and n e hdrd, daylight; and 
in Babylonian na-a-ru river, and nu-u-ru, daylight.) 

A Mandaean says, in ordinary conversation, yardna tufana ahvet or 
yardna brahati for 'the river is in flood'; indeed, the word is used when 
there is no question of ritual meaning. 

Herodotus (book iii, pp. 41617, Rawlinson's translation) wrote '. . . 
for I do not allow that there is any river, to which the barbarians give the 
name of Eridanus emptying itself into the northern sea, whence (as the tale 
goes) amber is procured ... for in the first place Eridanus is manifestly not 
a barbarian word at all, but a Greek name, invented by some poet or other.' 

To this Canon Rawlinson wrote a footnote relevant to the Jordan 
question: 'Here Herodotus is over-cautious, and rejects as fable what we 
can see to be truth. The amber district upon the northern sea is the coast of 
the Baltic about the Gulf of Dantzig. . . . The very name Eridanus 
lingers there in the Rhodaune, the small stream which washes the west side 
of the town of Dantzig. It is possible that in early times the name attached 
rather to the Vistula than to the Rhodaune. For the word Eridanus 
(= Rhodanus) seems to have been applied, by the early inhabitants of 
Europe, especially to great and strong-running rivers. The Italian Eridanus 
(the Po), the Transalpine Rhodanus (the Rhone), and the still more 
northern Rhenus (the Rhine), a name in which we may recognize a similar 
contraction to that which has now changed Rhodanus into Rhone, are all 
streams of this character.' He goes on to include Jordan as a possible 

By a curious coincidence Ard appears temptingly in the name of the river 
genius, or river, Ardvisura, which according to Parsi tradition empties 
itself into the sea Vourukasha, but Ardvi means 'lofty'. Sir J. J. Modi has 
an interesting note in his paper on the Mandaeans in the Journal of the 
K.R. Cama Oriental Institute, No. 23 (Bombay, 1932): 'The Ardvicura is 
identified by some scholars with the Oxus and the Vourukasha with the 
Caspian. The Jordan is to the Mandaeans what the Ardvi9ura is to the 

Introduction xxv 

Parsis. The Mandaeans believed that the Jordan, a terrestrial river, 
"descended from the celestial world by way of the mountains". The same 
is the case with the river Ardvicura. It also latterly began to be associated 
with the high heavens and to be believed as coming down through the 
Hukairya mountains. The name Ardvicura, though originally the name 
of a particular river, came to be identified with any collection of natural, 
running or flowing waters. It is usual to hear Parsis saying of their going 
to the banks of a river or the shore of a sea as going to Avan Ardvicura. . . . 
A Parsi says his Ardvi?ura Niyaish or Ardvicura Yasht before any collection 
of natural, flowing living water, whether the great Indian Ocean or the 
Arabian Sea, whether a river or a lake, whether a streamlet or a well.' 

In Syriac ?;. is a 'fount or well', and in Arabic the word *jj with its 
meaning of 'coming to water' must be connected with the same root- 

It is interesting to note that the Mandaeans derive all rivers and waters 
from a prototype, a white, pure river rising in a mountain named Karimla. 
This prototype is the Frash Ziwa, or Frat-Ziwa, the Light-Euphrates, not 
the Jordan. 


BDM. W. Brandt's Die Mandaer, Ihre Entwickelung und geschlchtllche 
Bedeutung (Leipzig, 1897). 

BM. British Museum. 

Ch. S. Dr. D. Chwolson's Die Stabler und Ssabismus (St. Petersburg, 

D.C. Drower collection: Mandaean documents in the possession of the 

GR. Der Ginza, ubersetzt . erklart von Mark Lidzbarski (Gottingen, 

J. M. Jastrow's A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Eabll and 
Yerushalml, and the Mldrashlc Literature (Berlin, Verlag Choreb, 

JB. Das Johannlsbuch der Mandaer, hrsg. von Mark Lidzbarski (Topel- 
mann, Giessen, 1915). 

JGF. Sir J. G. Frazer's The Golden Bough (various editions). 

JJM. Sir Jlvanji J. Modi's The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the 
Par sees (British India Press, 1922). 

KRC. The Journal of the K. R. Cama Institute, No. 23, 1932. 

OT. Old Testament. 

N. Theodor Noldeke's Mandalsche Grammatlk (Halle, 1895). 

P-S. A Compendious Syriac Dictionary founded on the Thesaurus Syriacus 
of R. Payne-Smith D.D., edited by J. Payne-Smith (Clarendon Press, 

. Mandalsche Liturgien, mltgetellt, iibersetzt, &c. Mark Lidzbarski 
(Sitzber. d. PreuS. Akad. d. Wiss., Phil.-hist. KL, Bd. 17, no. i, 
Berlin, 1920). 





IT is a peculiarity of the various communities and religions 
classed together as 'minorities' in modern Iraq that, 
for the most part, they 'keep to themselves', associating 
only with co-religionists and rarely marrying an outsider. 
Especially is this true of the Jews, the Yazldis, and the 
Subba. Though the last group are only a handful of 
people, surrounded by neighbours of other faiths, they 
never mingle with them or admit them to intimacy ; while 
a Subbi who marries outside his race and creed automatic- 

* * 

ally leaves it. 

The appellation 'Subba' (singular Subbi) 1 is a colloquial 
form which this people accept as referring to their prin- 
cipal cult, immersion ; but the more formal name of their 
race and religion, used by themselves, is Mandai, or 

In Arabic literature they appear as iiL or j^il-aM, and 
there can be little doubt that they are also identical with 
the Mughtasila 2 amongst whom, according to the Fihrist, 
Manl, the founder of Manichaeism, was born. Arab 
authors have sometimes confounded the Mandaeans with 
the Majus, or Magians, and not without reason, since 
the cults are similar. Travellers in the East were wont to 
refer to them as 'Christians of St. John', and Europeans 
who have come to Iraq since the Great War know them 
as 'the Amarah silverworkers'. 

As the community is small and peace-loving, with no 
political aspirations, it has no place in history beyond the 
occasional mention of its existence, and the record that 
some of the most brilliant scholars of the early Moslem 
Caliphate were of its way of thought. To-day, the prin- 
cipal centres of the Subba are in Southern Iraq, in the 


2 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 

marsh districts and on the lower reaches of the Euphrates 
and Tigris ; in the towns of Amarah, Nasoriyah, Basrah, 
at the junction of the two rivers at Qurnah, at Qal'at 
Salih, Halfayah, and Suq-ash-Shuyukh. Groups of them 
are found in the more northerly towns of Iraq: Kut, 
Baghdad, Diwaniyah, Kirkuk, and Mosul all have Subbi 
communities of varying size. The skill of the Subba as 
craftsmen takes them far afield, and Subbi silver-shops 
exist in Beyrut, Damascus, and Alexandria. In Persia the 
Mandaeans were once numerous in the province of Khuzi- 
stan, but their numbers have diminished, and the settle- 
ments in Muhammerah and Ahwaz along the banks of the 
Karun river are not so prosperous or so healthy as those 
in Iraq. 

The racial characteristics of these people are, as regards 
the better classes, marked, and they can be distinguished 
by their unusual physical type. I have said 'better classes', 
and by that I mean Mandaeans who come of priestly 
families, who are strict as to unblemished pedigree, and 
look for perfect health when they take a wife. The priestly 
families have two distinct types, one wiry, tanned, and black- 
eyed; the other tall, white-skinned, or slightly bronzed, 
and with a proportion of blue eyes to dark of about three 
persons in twelve. The poorer Mandaeans of the marsh 
districts and Southern Persia are darker-skinned and 
smaller-bodied than the priestly caste, who are almost in- 
variably of good physique. As a rule, Mandaean features 
are strong and handsome, the nose big, curved, and long. 

During the British occupation and the early days of the 
mandate, as one walked between the Subbi silver-shops in 
River Street, Baghdad, one sometimes saw a board an- 
nouncing the proprietor to be a 'St. John Christian', but 
these, now that Iraq has a national government, have dis- 
appeared. Like the followers of other secret religions, the 
Mandaeans, when talking to people of another faith, 
accentuate small points of resemblance between their 
beliefs and those of their hearers. To inquirers they will 
say, 'John is our prophet like Jesus' (or 'Muhammad', as 
the case may be) 'is yours'. I soon found that John the 


a. Mandaeans of priestly caste. The end figure (right) is the late silversmith, 


b. Hirmiz bar Anhar (right) in his silver shop in Baghdad 

The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 3 

Baptist (Yuhana, or Yahya Yuhana) could not with accuracy 
be described as 'their prophet' ; indeed, at one time I was 
tempted to believe that he was an importation from the 
Christians. I became gradually convinced, however, that 
he was not a mere accretion, and that he had real con- 
nexion with the original Nasurai, which was an early 
name given to the sect. Mandaeans do not pretend that 
either their religion or baptismal cult originated with 
John ; the most that is claimed for him is that he was a great 
teacher, performing baptisms in the exercise of his func- 
tion as priest, and that certain changes, such as the diminu- 
tion of prayer-times from five to three a day, were due to 
him. According to Mandaean teaching, he was a Nasurai; 
that is, an adept in the faith, skilled in the white magic of 
the priests and concerned largely with the healing of men's 
bodies as well as their souls. 3 By virtue of his nasirutha, 
iron could not cut him, nor fire burn him, nor water drown 
him, claims made to-day by the Rifa'i darawish. 

Jesus too, according to Mandaean theologians, was a 
Nasurai, but he was a rebel, a heretic, who led men astray, 
betrayed secret doctrines, and made religion easier (i.e. 
flouted the difficult and elaborate rules about purification). 
The references to Christ (Yshu Mshiha) are, in fact, 
entirely polemical, and for the most part refer to the prac- 
tices of Byzantine Christianity which awake horror in 
Mandaeans, such as the use of 'cut-off' (i.e. not flowing) 
water for baptism, and the celibacy of monks and nuns. 4 
The Haran Gawaitha (D.C. 9) mentions the establishment 
of Christian communities on Mount Sinai. In the cults, 
Jesus and John are both unmentioned. 5 Siouffi's story 
that John's name is pronounced at baptism is a fiction. In 
no ritual is he mentioned or invoked, unless I except the 
dukhrana, when lists of spirits of light, holy men, and the 
righteous dead from the earliest times to the present are 
read; but in these lists he has no especial honour. 

The explanation of the term 'Christian of St. John' lies 
therefore, not in the relation of either Christ or John to 
the sect, but partly in the fact that John is a useful name 
to produce to Christians, and has often been cited to induce 

4 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 

their toleration, and partly in the obvious connexion between 
the word 'Nasurai' and the Arabic word for Christians 

Nasara. I am not going to enter here into the controversy 
which arose when Lidzbarski pointed out the philological 
difficulties which prevent Na&palos wmiSKl meaning 'a 
man from Nazareth'. So strong was his belief that it 
did not, that he suggested that the evangelists placed the 
childhood of Jesus at Nazareth to explain the tradition 
that he was a 'Nasurai'. His arguments are set forth in 
Mandaische Liturgien, xvi ff., and in the introduction to his 
translation of the Ginza Rba (GR., p. ix). I refer the 
reader to these. 

In Mandaean manuscripts and legends, however, the 
word Nasurai is generally used in the sense indicated 
above, namely, 'one skilled in religious matters and white 
magic', while the Christians are usually called mshihiia, 
that is to say, 'followers of the Messiah', or kristianaia, 
'Christians'. Magic rolls bear the inscription, 'this is 
written from the nasirutha (i.e. priestly craft) of So-and- 
So'. Of John it is written in the Haran Gawaitha: 

'When he was seven years old, Anush f Uthra 6 came and wrote the 
ABC (a ba ga) for him, until, when he was twenty-two years old, 
he had learnt all the priestly-craft (nasirutha].'' 

In later manuscripts Nasurai are often mentioned as if 
they were of higher grade than laymen, e.g. 'Nasurai and 
Mandai', while nowadays I hear the word sometimes 
applied to a priest who is especially literate, or reputed 
skilful in white magic. 'Ah, he is a real Nasurai !' 

What is the root-meaning? Lidzbarski thinks it akin 
to 'observe', and deduces that the Nasurai were 'observers'. 
Another Orientalist suggests that it may be analogous to 
the Syriac root nsr meaning (P-S.) 'to chirp, twitter (as a 
bird), utter broken sounds (as a magician), to chant, sing 

Both these suggested root-meanings agree with Man- 
daean conceptions. The Nasurai was an observer of stars 
and omens, of constellations, and of auspices. A Mandaean 
priest in Ahwaz, speaking of the secret knowledge 

The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 5 

transmitted from priest to priest, vaunted this secret know- 

'If a raven croaks in a certain burj (astrological house) I under- 
stand what it says, also the meaning when the fire crackles or the 
door creaks. When the sky is cloudy and there are shapes in the sky 
resembling a mare or a sheep, I can read their significance and 
message. When the moon (gumra) is darkened by an eclipse, I 
understand the portent: when a dust-cloud arises, black, red, or 
white, I read the signs, and all this according to the hours and the 

The second meaning also answers to the functions and 
nature of the Nasurai. No exorcism, no ceremony, no 
religious act is considered efficacious without a formula. 
Words have magic power. The mere utterance of a name 
will compel its owner to be at the service of the utterer, 
or at least, will summon his presence. Prayers, except 
when profoundly secret and pronounced 'in the heart', 
are spoken aloud. In short, the Mandaean of to-day, like 
his predecessors in the land of Simmer long ago, believes 
in incantation. 

The last name, Mandai, or Mandaeans, brings me to 
the question of the origin of these people. I discussed 
it originally in an article on the Mandi (cult-hut) in Ancient 
Egypt and the East (June 1 934), and the theory there tenta- 
tively proffered has lately received strengthening evidence 
from the Haran Gawaitha, (D.C. 9) a most interesting 
manuscript which, after years of effort, I succeeded in 
purchasing. Here, at last, I found what I had been look- 
ing for, definite information about the Tura d Madai 
(Mountain of the Maddai or Mandai), which figures in 
Mandaean tradition and legend. 

The manuscript is broken, the beginning is missing, 
and it bears marks of shameless editing. Owing to this 
last, it is difficult to date it from internal evidence. Un- 
like the 1 8th book of the Ginza (rt.), it assigns 4,000 
years to Arab rule before the advent of the "lying 
Messiah", but, like the Ginza, says that "the mud brick 
in the wall" will proclaim him. Bar Khuni in his 'Scho- 
lion' (A.D. 792) repeats the same legend. 

6 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 

On the other hand, tarmida is used in its ancient 
sense of 'disciple'. It is written after the Arab invasion, 
but the attacks on Islam are not so venomous as those on 
the Yahutaiia, which word is used throughout as mean- 
ing both 'Chaldeans* and 'Jews'. (In Legend VI the 
narrator called Nebuchadnezzar 'the king of the Jews'.) 

The roll purports to be a history and prophecy com- 
bined, and is looked upon with the utmost reverence by 
the Mandaeans, though on account of its dangerously 
polemical character it has been always kept secret. 

It starts in the middle of a sentence : 

'The interior of the Haran (i.e. Harran) admitted them, that 
city which has Nasurai in it, so that there should not be a road 
(passage?) for the kings of the Yahutaiia (Chaldeans). Over them 
(the Nasurai) was King Ardban. And they severed themselves from 
the sign of the Seven and entered the mountain of the Madai, a 
place where they were free from domination of all races. And they 
built mandis (mandia) and dwelt in the call of the Life and in the 
strength of the high King of Light.' 

The birth of Jesus is narrated briefly, and 

'He perverted the words of the Light and changed them to dark- 
ness and converted those who were mine and perverted all the cults 
{^bidatha}. . . . He and his brother established themselves on Mount 
Sinai and took unto themselves all nations and brought the people 
unto themselves and were called Christians (krastinaiia) and were 
called after Nazareth (Nisrath mdinta}.' 

Nazareth is identified with the city of Qum ! 

The miraculous birth of John (Yahya Yuhana) follows 
(the account differs from that in the Drasha d Yahya), and 
the story of his rearing in the 'white mountain' Parwan, of 
his baptism, education, and initiation into priesthood in 
the Mountain of the Madai. Later in the document the 
Mountain of the Madai is located, mitqiria Haran Gawai- 
tha y 'which is called the Inner Harran'. A curious gloss, 
possibly interpolated, since it breaks the current of narra- 
tion, says: 

'The Madai are not counted as belonging to Ruha 7 and her 
seven Sons because there are amongst them (those) of Hibil Ziwa.' 

The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 7 

John is brought to Jerusalem, where, apparently, there 
was a community from the Mountain of the Madai : 

'And Anush 'Uthra brought him and came with him to the city 
of Jerusalem, amongst the community (kinta d kanat] founded by 
Ruha. All of them belonged to her and to her sons except those 
from the Mountain of the Madai.' 

There is no account of John's baptism of Christ (as 
in the Drasha d Yahya), or of John's baptism of Manda- 
d-Hiia: indeed, the expression 'Manda-d-Hiia' is not 
used throughout. John is represented as teacher, baptist, 
and healer: 'he taught disciples (tarmid tarmidia)\ and 'set 
the broken going upon their legs'. 

Sixty years after his death, the manuscript relates, there 
was a persecution of Nasurai in Jerusalem, 'so that there 
did not escape of the disciples and Nasurai a man'. The 
escape of a remnant is indicated. The Jews in their turn 
were harried, and many of them driven 'by a flail' to a 
place called Suf Zaba ('stream of reeds') later glossed as 
'Basra'. This migration is embroidered by the 'historian' 
with detail from the ancient flight from Egypt, as he 
describes a miraculous passage through the waters (of the 
marshes ? Suf Zaba is evidently here the reedy marsh region 
of the Basrah district). No pursuing host is mentioned. 

With the help of Ruha, the 'Yahutaiia' (here Chaldeans) 
built a strong new city with seven walls, 'each more magni- 
ficent than its fellow'. This city ('Baghdad') is destroyed 
utterly later by the powers of light, aided by the 'Madai' 
and seven guards (natrtd) from 'Mount Parwan'. A 
descendant of King Ardban is set up in 'Baghdad', and 
his rule established over the four corners of the world. 
Satraps are set up over the provinces, and these all have 
Mandaean names. This rule is thoroughly approved of 
by the Powers of Light. 

Next comes a description of the destruction of Jerusalem 
by the powers of light. 

'He (Anush 'Uthra) went and burnt and destroyed the city of 
Jerusalem and killed the Beni Israel (bnia Sriil) and the priests 
(kahnia) of Jerusalem and made it like mounds of ruins (akwath 
tilia d habarawatha}^ 

8 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 

The period of prosperity in Babylonia is followed by 
divisions, many races, tongues and wars. The Hardabaiia 
(otharba baiia, "seeking war"?) take the power from the 
descendants of Ardban and their king rules "360 years", 
till the Arab era. 

The writer, however, is less concerned with invaders 
and rulers, such as the Hardabaiia, than with a split within 
the ranks of the Nasuraiia themselves. He chronicles a 

large settlement of Nasuraiia at Tib (i.e. the well-watered 
lowlands between the marshes of the Amarah Liwa and the 
Jebel Hamrin), and describes how, eighty-six years before 
the Moslem invasion, one Qiqel, a risk *ama (religious 
chief) of the Nasurai, was deluded by Ruha disguised as 
a spirit of light, so that he, together with his priests and 
many others, fell away from the true faith and wrote 
'writings' inspired by the powers of darkness. That this 
was still a powerful heresy appears from the exhortations 
of the writer to avoid contact with these schismatics and to 
burn and destroy their works. 

After this, the coming of the Arabs appears a minor 
disaster. Muhammad is sometimes termed 'Son of Harm, 
the Arab', and sometimes 'Muhammad, son of 'Abdallah'. 

The writer relates how one 'Anush son of Danqa' 'from 

the mountains of Arsaiia' (mn tura d Arsaiia tura is used 


for mountainous country as well as 'mount') approached 
the Arab king (malka) and explained to him that the Man- 
daeans had valuable and holy writings and an ancient 
religion. Thus he won protection for his co-religionists. 

Here ends the relation of the past, and prophecy for 
the future begins ending with the ultimate confusion of 
the Arabs, the reign of the false Messiah, the eventual 
return of Anush 'Uthra, and then, a final debacle before 
the end of the world under the dominion of 'Amamit, 
daughter of Qin'. 

The importance of the document lies in the implication 
that the Nasurai are identical with the Parthians, since the 
latter correspond most nearly with the bnia dbnia d Ardban 
Malka, who came from the Tura d Madai. That this was 
a mountainous country and stretched to Harran is clearly 

The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 9 

indicated, also, that not all the 'Madai' were Nasurai. 
Noteworthy also is the fact that the expression 'Manda d 
Hiia' does not occur, nor the expression 'Mandai 1 for 
Mandaeans. It may be argued that 'Madai' refers to the 
Mandaeans, but in that case, Mandaean cannot mean 
'gnostic' but refers to nationality. 8 

I had long been concerned with this question of origins. 
When I questioned the priests and got the answer 'We 
came from the North', I did not attach much literal value 
to the answer, for dwellers in the Middle East cannot dis- 
tinguish between religion and race, and the divine an- 
cestors naturally resided in the north, the seat of the gods. 9 

But there seemed something more than this in their 
refusal to acknowledge Lower Iraq as the original home 
of the race. There is an arrogance, almost worthy of the 
present 'Nordic' propaganda, about the following, culled 
from the seventh fragment of the eleventh book of the 
Ginza Rba : 

'All the world calls the north a highland and the south a lowland. 
For the worlds of darkness lie in the lowlands of the South. . . . 
Whoso dwelleth in the North is light of colour but those who live 
in the lowlands are black and their appearance is ugly like demons.' 

Pinned down to detail, the Mandaean priests produced 
a hotch potch of legend and tradition, but the Mountain 
of the Maddai always figured in their accounts. When I 
pressed for information as to its whereabouts, answers 
differed. Some thought it must be identical with Mshunia 
Kushta, that ideal world which corresponds to our own. 
Others were more precise. 'It is, I think, in Iran, for 
Madia is in Iran.' One priest ventured, 'Some say the Ttira 
d Maddai is in Turkestan, and I have heard that the Arabs 
call it Jebel Tai'. Significant was the remark of another 
Subbi when speaking of baptism : 'the Subba of old time 
were with the Persians in a place where there were springs 
which were hot in winter and cold in summer.' The 
Mountain of the Mandai described in one of the legends 
has an equable climate and hot springs. Less direct 
evidence is furnished by the references, so common in the 

4363 r< 

io The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 

texts, to 'black water' which 'burns like fire'. This can be 
nothing else but the black oil seepages and outcrops of 
burning oil and gas so common in oil-bearing districts. 

Oddly enough, the priests do not place the creation of 
man in the north. Adam, the First Man, they say, was in 
Serandib (Ceylon). Still more inexplicable is the assertion 
that the Egyptians were co-religionists, and that the 
original ancestors of the Mandaean race went from Egypt 
to the Tura d Madai. Yearly, a ritual meal is eaten in 
memory of the Egyptian hosts who perished in the waters 
when following the wicked Jews. This story must come 
through some Israelitish source, and one is inclined to 
wonder if that portion of the Israelites who were taken 
captive by Sargon were in truth settled near the Caspian, 
converted to Mazdaism, and merged into the people of 
the district, as some have suggested. 

However, legend, tradition, and the Haran Gawaitha 
point all in one direction, namely, that at one time a com- 
munity whose beliefs approximated to those held by the 
Mandaeans, inhabited a mountainous country to the north, 
that this country stood in some relation to Harran, that a 
sect in Jerusalem which afterwards emigrated to the south 
were of the same faith, and that Maddai or Mandai 
originally had no reference to religion. Further, it appears 
not only from the narrative of the Haran Gawaitha but, as 
I shall show in this book, from all the cults and the ideas 
which underlie them, that the faith held by all these people 
was in fact closely related to Mazdaism, or to early 
Zoroastrianism, as well as to some ancient Babylonian 

I now approach, with some diffidence, a series of philo- 
logical and historical coincidences. What does 'Madai' or 
'Mandai' mean ? In the extract from the Haran Gawaitha 
quoted above, the expression 'they built mandis and dwelt' 
is used. To-day, the ordinary cult-hut, called in the literary 
language mashkhana (dwelling), is known in ratna (collo- 
quial modern Mandaean) as the 'mandi'. In the roll 
'Sharh d Parwanaia' (D.C. 24) the cult-hut is called the 
manda. Priests explain, 'the word is Persian and means a 

The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 1 1 

dwelling'. The word occurs again in a compound form in 
the term mandilta (mand-Uta), the name of the curious 
triple betyl erected in the courtyard of a house where a 
member of the family has died, the meaning here being 
obviously 'dwelling-of-the-spirit', or 'dwelling-of-the-god'. 
(See pp. 181-184.) 

Now on the strength of similarities of religious phraseo- 
logy in Syriac and Aramaic, * Man da d HiiaVhas hitherto 
been translated 'knowledge o"r life 7 , i.e. gnosis; and by 
analogy, 'Mandai' as gnostics'. As Professor Pallis has 
already pointed out, the form would be an imported one. 
The word for 'knowledge' in Mandaean literature is 
madita, yadutha, madda or madihtha^ and nowhere is the 
n imported into any form of the verb *ada^ 'to know'. Why 
is this ? Moreover, when separated from the name 'Manda 
d Hiia' the translation as 'knowledge' or 'gnosis' becomes 
a little strained, as in the sentence: 

'Thou (Manda d Hiia) art ... the great Tree which is all 
mandia 1 (plural).' 

The Tree is a common religious symbol in Mandaean 
books for Divine Life, and the souls of Mandaeans are not 
seldom represented as birds, taking refuge in the shelter 
of a Vine, or Tree, against the tempests of the world. Here, 
to translate the word mandia by 'dwellings' or 'shelters' 
would make sense. 

There was actually a district known as Manda in 
late Babylonian times; Winckler, in Untersuchungen zur 
altorientalischen Geschichte^ 1889, p. 112, places this 
'Manda', 'am kaspischen Meere und ostlich davon'. 
Nevertheless, the whereabouts of the province is not cer- 
tain. About 553 B.C. (see the Cambridge Ancient History^ 
vol. iii, p. 220), the god Marduk, appearing to Nabonidus 
in a dream, bade him restore the ancient and famous moon- 
temple of Harran. The king urged that it was still in the 
hands of the Umman-Manda, and asked how could a 
Babylonian king 

'interfere with their share of the spoil obtained by Cyaxares ? The 
god answered that the Umman-Manda were dead or scattered, for 

1 2 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq c 

in the third year of Nabonidus, Cyrus, the king < 
defeated them, carried Ishtumegu (Astyages) into ca 
spoiled their city of Ecbatana.' 

Ecbatana is the modern Hamadan. Wine 
that the Umman-Manda were possibly a ]\ 
R. W. Rogers, in his A History of Ancient P 
ventures to equate the Manda with the Mad; 
Delattre (Le Peuple et /'empire des Medes., 1883, 

'Dans 1'inscription babylonienne qui porte son no 
rnaitre de toute 1'Asie occidentale, divise les peuples c 
en trois groupes, les peuples de Quti ou Guti, les peup 
qaqqadi, et les peuples de Manda. Les Quti etaienl 
PArmenie, les peuples de Tsalmat-qaqqadi etaien 
nations soumises aux empires essentiellement Semitic 
et de Babylone. Les peuples de Manda etaient les 
Medes. Nabonide donne a Astyage le titre de "roi < 
Manda". La denomination de "hommes de Manda 
par Asarhaddon aux Gimirriens (Cimmeriens, peu 
voisin de la Mer Noire), auxquels la Bible attribue le 
les Medes, et qui aiderent ceux-ci a ruiner 1'empire < 
cet ensemble, est-il permis de conclure que le nom 
Manda" etait une qualification ethnique designant les 
voisins du Caucase, comme les Cimmeriens, ainsi qu 

The word manda occurs in several Iraniai 
languages in which Iranian words occur; for 
northern India the word ma WJmeans a 'covere 
or 'bazaar'. In Gujarati there is the word 
mandava^ meaning a 'shed' or 'temple', deriv 
Sanskrit mandapa with the same meaning. 1 
the Nilgiris in southern India, who have a 
migration from the Caspian, call their villa^ 
of thatched huts with a dairy for the sacn 
a mand. Ma-da occurs in Sumerian as mean 
settlement' (philologists are undecided as 
Semitic matu is related to it or not. Does IV 
back to the Medes ?). 

Philology is a quicksand for all who are not 
and I do not venture, therefore, to do more tt 

of Iraq and Iran 

the king of Anzan, had 
into captivity and had 

n. Winckler surmises 
sibly a Median tribe. 
4ndent Persia (p. 1 2), 
the Madai, or Medes. 
deS) 1 8 8 3, p. 1 9 5), says : 

>rte son nom, Cyrus, deja 
2S peuples qui lui obeissent 
ti, les peuples de Tsalmat- 
)uti etaient les peuples de 
jadi etaient la masse des 
tent semitiques de Ninive 
etaient les sujets des rois 
re de "roi des hommes de 
de Manda" est appliquee 
h'iens, peuple de Gomer, 
i attribue les affinites avec 
:r 1'empire de Ninive. De 
ue le nom de "peuple de 
ssignant les peuples aryens 
is, ainsi que les peuples de 

al Iranian dialects, or 

)ccur; for instance, in 

s a 'covered-in market' 

the word mandap or 

>le', derived from the 

:aning. The Todas of 

o have a tradition of 

heir village, or group 

the sacred buffaloes, 

as meaning 'land, or 

:ided as to whether 

Does Mada lead us 

10 are not philologists, 
o more than ask those 

The Mandaeans ( 

who are qualified, if it 
mada or manda origina] 
'dwelling-place', or 'si 
collection of buildin: 


erections of wandering 
Were this so, Ma: 
equivalent to 'House-i 
and would be a persor 
spirit of Man, whose b 
as was suggested by 
Mandaean light-being 
race. I can only leave 
mass of clues which I ] 
Against the theor 
the north, as Profess^ 

Noldeke stated Ma 

'Mandaean is closely n 
Ionian Talmud. Both th 
speaking . . . actually, we i 
Ionian Talmud was that 
in Lower Babylonia.' (N 

Elsewhere he wrote 

'Close relationship bet 
guage is apparent through< 
appears to be a later form 
for the Mandaean texts ; 
with foreign elements, an< 
better than the Talmud, 
more than a few accidei 
the Iraqi Nabataeans, ( 
Babylonia), we should a 
and Talmudic, and far i 
p. xx vi.) 

The lack of guttur 
fusion .between s and 
some extent in the ol< 
that one h is made to d 
h does seem to indica 

14 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 

foreign to the people who spoke it, or that there were 
considerable Aryan (if one dare use so abused a word), or 
non-Semitic elements. There is, in fact, a soft h, but as it 
is used exclusively and only for the third person suffix, and 
pronounced / or #, according to gender and number, it 
cannot be counted in. 

Leaving the doubtful question of origins, and turning to 
the history of the race in Iraq, the Sabians are mentioned 
three times in the Qur'an in conjunction with Jews and 
Christians, as people of a recognized religion. I have 
referred already to the Arab sources of information gathered 
by Chwolson in his monumental work. He gives a full 
account of the brilliant Sabian scholars of the Baghdad 
Court. Greek learning first became accessible to Europe 
through Arab translations of the classics, and amongst the 
first translators into Arabic were Harranian Sabians at the 
Caliph's capital city. Physicians, astrologers, philosophers, 
and poets, the Sabians were an adornment to Arab civiliza- 
tion and helped to found its fame. 

These Harranians may have secured for their brethren 

of the marshes, a simpler and more primitive people, some 

degree of toleration and fair treatment. Throughout the 

Middle Ages, however, the glimpses that one gets of the 

Mandaeans show them harassed by persecution. One 

disaster in the fourteenth century left such a mark on their 

memories that they still speak of it to-day. I came on a 

record of it at the end of a magic roll that I examined 

recently, and the same account is set in the tarikh at the 

end of a codex in Shaikh Dukhayil's possession. It tells 

of a frightful slaughter of Mandaeans in the Jazlrah when 

Sultan Muhsin ibn Mahdi was ruler in Amarah and his 

son Feyyadh governor in Shuster. The cause was a woman, 

a Subbiyah, who, going down to the river on the first day 

of the New Year, at a time when all Mandaeans keep 

within doors (see pp. 85-86) was seized by Arabs from a 

fleet of boats lying in the river. Fighting ensued, and war 

against the Subba was proclaimed. Priests, men, women, 

and children were massacred and the community remained 

broken and priestless for years. 

The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq and Iran 1 5 

'If oppressed (persecuted), then say: We belong to you. But do 
not confess him in your hearts, or deny the voice of your Master, 
the high King of Light, for to the lying Messiah the hidden is not 
revealed.' (GR. rt. 28, 16.) 

Such precepts from the Ginza Rba must, in the six- 
teenth century, when the Portuguese had a trading station 
in Basrah, have resulted in the Mandaean being taken for 
a peculiarly pernicious heretic. Urged by their clergy, the 
Portuguese authorities persuaded the Pasha to compel 
'Christians of St. John' to come to church. Means were 
taken to convert them by force; some were pressed into 
the Portuguese army. In the early seventeenth century 
a number of Mandaeans were Portuguese mercenaries. 

In recent times the Turks showed more tolerance, for, 
as war and the shedding of blood are against Mandaean 
tenets, the Subba were permitted to pay fines instead of 
serving in the Ottoman Army. It remains to be seen what 
will happen when Iraq brings conscription into force. 
The position is no longer the same, however. The hold of 
the religion has become so feeble that I met recently a 
young Subbi officer who had served in the campaign 
against the Assyrians, and several Subbi youths are cadets. 

Indeed, modern methods, modern ways, nationalistic 
education, cinemas, cars, and all that make up the new 
Iraq, threaten the existence of this already dwindling 
community. In Government schools, boys conform to a 
pattern in dress, manners, and thought. Mandaean boys 
(including those of priestly caste) take to European dress 
and wear the sidarah cap, 11 and, when they return to their 
homes, neglect and slight the precepts of the priests. In 
the stress of school, or later business oroffice life, ceremonial 
ablutions are seldom performed, while sons of priests cut 
their hair and shave, and so become ineligible for priest- 
hood (see Chapter IX). One by one, as priestly perquisites 
diminish and incomes lessen, the calling becomes un- 
popular. If these conditions persist, the priesthood will 
gradually die out, and without priests to baptize, marry, 
and bury them, the Mandaeans as a sect must disappear. 
There is a further drain on the community in the shape of 

1 6 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq 

apostates. Subbiyah girls marry outside 
adopt their husbands' creeds, and youths fors 
so incompatible with worldly advantage and 
big towns the publicity of the river-side m 
scribed ablutions and baptisms all but impo 
According to the last census (April 1932 
of Subba in Iraq 12 is given as 4,805. I in 
this an understatement, which will be revi 
get the results of the new census recently 
Iraqi Government. Under the mandate, corr 
those at Amarah and QaFat Salih took on 
perity, and independent Iraq promises p: 
tolerance. The danger to the flock lies w: 
rather than from wolves without. 


1. Subba or Sabba\ singular Subbi or Sabbi. A colloc 
allied to the Mandaean sba and Syriac >&.=>.: 'to plunge 1 
Mandaean there is a tendency in the case of a weak th 
replace it by a doubled second root-letter. There is, he 
daean root sbb. A parallel occurs in the colloquial Iraqi . 
'to penetrate, go down into', allied to the Mandaean tt 

Mandaean sba is also used for 'plunge into a dye-1 

meaning has its reflection in the Mandaean belief that ; 

immersion, results in a change of colour: a person goes i 

black and emerges white; he goes in polluted and comes 

clad in light. Arabic-speaking Mandaeans use the Arabi 

or dye') when speaking of baptism, not the Christian ' 'an, 

The Mandaean verbal noun masbuta, 'baptism', is pron 

The exact meaning of the fa'i/ form of the root sba err 

literature is discussed by Chwolson (Ch. S, bk. i, chap, i), 

Svend Aage Pallis in his Mandaean Bibliography, pp. 19 i 

2. Mughtasila, i.e. 'those who wash themselves'. Tin 
was in the marshy districts of Lower Iraq, and I can fir 
account given in Al-Fikrist which is not descriptive oJ 

3. Cf. Matt., chap, xi, vv. 3, 4, and 5 : 'Now when Job 
the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and sa 
thou he that should come, or do we look for another ? Je 
said unto them, Go and shew John again those things whi< 

' and Iran 

the faith and 
sake a religion 
1 town life. In 
nakes the pre- 

2) the number 
icline to think 
ised when we 
taken by the 
nmunities like 
i a new pros- 
>rotection and 
dthin the fold 

quial Arabic word 
in, submerge'. In 
hird-root letter to 
towever, no Man- 
Arabic verb tabb, 
f -ba with the same 

-bath'. This dual 
masbuta, or ritual 
in metaphorically 
;s out purified and 
dc istabagh ('souse 
?W('to baptize'), 
lounced mas-wetta. 
nployed in Arabic 
. also by Professor 

ic seat of this sect 
nd nothing in the 
>f some aspects of 

[in heard in prison 
lid unto him, Art 
2sus answered and 
ich ye do hear and 

The Mandaean. 

see: The blind receive thei 
and the deaf hear, the de; 
preached unto them.' 

4. The Natural and ce 
Mandaean legend often n 
munities, resembling stroni 
Josephus and Philo. Jose] 
also another order of Esse: 
living and customs and law 
they think that those who c 
life, which is the continuar 

Similarly, the Manichae 
priests, whilst laymen were 

In both Semitic and Ir 
ideas. Whilst, on the one hai 
a state of impurity broughl 
worship of the principle of I 
Jews, as well as Mandaeans, 
unmarried, by both sects, a: 
and demons,, and from su 
mankind are born a cone 

The Ginza Rba (GR., 
monks and nuns and hold ' 
from the men and the men 
mouths and put white garn 
to them and receive seeds 
proceed from them whic 
Thompson's Semitic Magu 

The Zoroastrians enjoii 
'According to the Vendidai 
thushtra! Indeed I thus r 
above a Magava (i.e. unm* 
with a family above one v\ 
one who is without childrei 

Siouffi (p. 97) speaks of 
man who wishes to be pe] 
death prayers read over hin 
apart from his wife. Siouf 
the novice and the priest 1 
It is an example of the dan 
with the Mandaeans, I fo] 

Mandaeans deny vehen 
during preparation for pri 
from his wife, except at the 
bacy, indeed of extreme ai 
Lidzbarski seem to have ac 


iith and 


. life. In 

the pre- 


to think 
vhen we 
i by the 
ities like 
;w pros- 
ion and 
the fold 

rabic word 
merge'. In 
Dt letter to 
, no Man- 
verb tabby 
\ the same 

This dual 
2, or ritual 
urified and 
agk ('souse 
) baptize'). 
I maswetta. 
\ in Arabic 
r Professor 

Df this sect 

ling in the 

aspects of 

d in prison 
D him, Art 
wered and 
o hear and 

The Mandaeans (or S 

see: The blind receive their sight, a 
and the deaf hear, the dead are n 
preached unto them.' 

4. The Nasurai and celibacy. 
Mandaean legend often represents 
munities, resembling strongly those 
Josephus and Philo. Josephus says 
also another order of Essenes, whc 
living and customs and laws, but dii 
they think that those who do not m 
life, which is the continuance of m.c 

Similarly, the Manichaean 'Sidd 
priests, whilst laymen were allowed 

In both Semitic and Iranian re 
ideas. Whilst, on the one hand, sexua 
a state of impurity brought defilem 
worship of the principle of Life bade 
Jews, as well as Mandaeans, regard t 
unmarried, by both sects, are suppo 
and demons,, and from such unhc 
mankind are born a conception a 

The Ginza Rba (GR., p. 153) 
monks and nuns and hold back the: 
from the men and the men from th< 
mouths and put white garments far 
to them and receive seeds from t 
proceed from them which plagu( 
Thompson's Semitic Magic, pp. 68 

The Zoroastrians enjoined man 
'According to the Vendidad (iv. 47 
thushtra! Indeed I thus recomme: 
above a Magava (i.e. unmarried mi 
with a family above one without a 
one who is without children.' JJ1V 

Siouffi (p. 97) speaks of a form 
man who wishes to be perfect, am 
death prayers read over him and wil 
apart from his wife. Siouffi probat 
the novice and the priest becoming 
It is an example of the danger of p: 
with the Mandaeans, I followed h: 

Mandaeans deny vehemently ai 
during preparation for priesthood 
from his wife, except at the times \ 
bacy, indeed of extreme asceticism 
Lidzbarski seem to have accepted i 


*ubba) of Iraq and Iran 1 7 

ad the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed 
ised up, and the poor have the gospel 

In direct contradiction to these tenets, 

the Nasurai as living in celibate com- 

of the celibate Essenes, as described by 

i, however (vol. iv, p. 156): 'There is 

> agree with the rest as to their way of 

Fer from them as regards marriage. For 

irry cut off the principal part of human 


iqs' were a vegetarian, celibate order of 
both to marry and to eat meat. 
ligions there is an internal conflict of 
1 intercourse and contact with women in 
snt, on the other, tribal instinct and the 
men 'be fruitful and multiply'. Oriental 
ic bachelor as a sinner against Life. The 
>ed to be liable to commerce with liliths 
llowed unions evil spirits harmful to 
Iso prevalent in ancient Babylonia. 
says of Christians: '. . . they become 
j seed one from the other, the women 
: women. . . . They lay fasting on their 
from their bodies. . . . Then liliths go 
hem, and so (evil) spirits and goblins 
: mankind.' (See also Dr. Campbell 

iage and the procreation of children: 
) Ahura Mazda says: O Spitama Zara- 
id here unto thee a man with a wife 
in) who grows up (unmarried), a man 
ay family, a man with children above 
[, p. 14. 

of Mandaean celibacy and says that a 
1 forsake the world utterly, will have 
I live like a dead man in his own house, 
Jy mistook the temporary seclusion of 
a ganzibra for a permanent celibacy. 
econceived ideas that, in early dealing 
s error through having read his book. 
y such practice, and assert that only 
ind the ganzivrate does a man separate 
'hen she is impure. All forms of celi- 
, are abhorrent to them. Brandt and 
Siouffi's statement without verification. 

1 8 The Mandaeans (or Subba) of Iraq 

5. Except a punning polemical reference to the Msh 
for the minor ablution. 

6. Anush ' Uthra. A spirit of Life: a personification ( 
ciple in man. Anush = 'Man', 'Uthra = 'heavenly bein 
parallel 'Gabriel' Gabra = 'Man', -el is a suffix dei 
heavenly origin. 

7. Ruha and her Seven Sons. The Breath of Physical 
the seven planets. For her connexion with Hibil Ziwa 
Book II, pp. 252, 256 and Legend III. 

8. But Madai does not necessarily mean 'Medes', for 
t Madaiia > . In a long, interesting, and often-copied ma 
and 1 5) bearing indications of early authorship, there 
Medes, Persians, and Romans couched in unfriendly ten 

'Asirna umshabidna Shamish. malkadalahia dziwh dn 
tha atha kbishjia malkuth. pars umadaiia bshum razia d 
umshabidna Sin mara rama nhura uhshukha aziq mn qua 
watha d ruhmaiia auilia masira asirna umshabidna / 
umadaiia bsjmma Elatina Anbilat uRuiaiil? 

(I bind and grasp Shamish, king of all gods, whose brill 
all cities. Come and tread down the kingdom of the Persi; 
in the name of the seven mysteries of their father. . . . I b 
lofty lord of light and darkness. Discomfit before them t 
the dominion[s] of the Romans. Firmly I tie and secure 
the Romans and the Medes in the name of Blatina Anbila 
made fast'] and Ruiaiil.) Both my texts are corrupt. 

9. The North. The north is the source of light, instru< 
in prayer, as in death, the Mandaean faces the Polar Sta 
think deeply, he faces the north, and sleeps with his he 
rise in the right direction. Natural phenomena foster hi 
wind of Iraq is healthful, whereas the south wind is 
rivers which bring life to the dusty plains flow from the 
conditions are responsible for this choice of the north as a 
which a worshipper faces when praying), the Babylonia 
same country, had the same reasons for praying towards 1 

The Zoroastrians and modern Parsis faced south at 
Modi says: 'This is due to the fact that the ancient Iraniai 
the Parsis, had a natural hatred for the north, from whi 
all kinds of dangers and evils, whether climatic, physic 
The winds from the northern cold regions brought sicl* 
Persia. Again the marauders from Mazenderan, Gilan, 
ing regions in the north brought destruction and death, 
hand, the south was considered a very auspicious side. T 
south were healthy and invigorating.' (JJM., pp. 56-7.' 

Nevertheless, the Parsis place a dead body so that the 1; 
the feet north exactly as the Mandaeans do (JJM., p. 

j and Iran 

hiha in the prayers 

of the divine prin- 
ig'. Cf. the exactly 
moting divinity or 

,1 Life and her sons 
i (a light spirit) see 

'Medes' is written 
agic roll (D.C. 13 
5 are references to 

nia Ikulhun mdinia- 
d abhun . . . asirna 
damaihun d malka- 
kbushlia ruhmaiia 

lliance is shed upon 
ians and the Medes 
bind and grasp Sin, 
those who bring in 
; them. Overthrow 
[at \Blat = 'bolted, 

iction, and healing: 
:ar. If he wishes to 
tead south, so as to 
is belief; the north 
s enervating. The 
; north. If climatic 
a Qiblah (direction 
ans, inhabiting the 
the north. 
t prayer. Sir J. J. 
ins, the ancestors of 
iich side proceeded 
:cal or mental. . . . 
kness and death in 
, and other adjoin- 
. . . . On the other 
Phe winds from the 

The Mandaeans 

The Harranian Sabians, 
performing their devotions. 

There are indications in t 
the Jews was the north. I 
influences, that the Rabbis m 

The Essenes faced the ris 
the symbol of the resurre< 
Christians face to the east ii 

The Stitzfellahin of Irac 
My golf-caddy recently, reft 
wind said 'Paradise (Jennak 

10. Nbat oftheNabata 

i r . A felt forage-cap intr< 

12. Thevenot, in 1663, 
as 3,279 souls. In 1672 the 
that there were 2,500 Mand 
were colonies of them in M 
stay in Suq-ash-Shuyukh in 
Siouffi, in 1880, computed t 
1,500 were men and boys. 

The Iraqi census of April 
Kirkuk, 7; Baghdad, 244; I 
738; Amarah, 1,972; Munte 

The census of June 1935 
Baghdad, 125; Dulaim, 5; '. 
Kirkuk, 26; Kut, 84; Munta 

The Mandaean priest in i 
city was 200. 

Note. Mr. Henry Field' 
(Field Museum of Natural 
1937), gives a statistical, ant 
the Mandaeans in Iraq. 

head lies south and 
' 56). 

I Iran 

1 the prayers 

divine prin- 
f. the exactly 
5 divinity or 

and her sons 
;ht spirit) see 

.es' is written 
oil (D.C. 13 
references to 

'Ihun mdinia- 
',n . . . asirna 
hun d malka- 
lia ruhmaiia 

is shed upon 
id the Medes 
nd grasp Sin, 
who bring in 
. Overthrow 
at 'bolted, 

and healing: 
he wishes to 
iuth, so as to 
ef; the north 
vating. The 
L. If climatic 
ah (direction 
ihabiting the 
er. Sir J. J. 

2 ancestors of 
le proceeded 
mental. . . . 
and death in 
jther adjoin- 
3n the other 
nds from the 

The Mandaeans (or 

The Harranian Sabians, like 
performing their devotions. 

There are indications in the Old 
the Jews was the north. It was 
influences, that the Rabbis made the 

The Essenes faced the rising sur 
the symbol of the resurrection; 
Christians face to the east in praye 

The 'Shfz.fellahin of Iraq still c 
My golf-caddy recently, referring t 
wind said 'Paradise (Jennah} is in t 

10. Nbat of the Nabataeans. 

n. A felt forage-cap introduced 

12. Thevenot, in 1663, gave an 
as 3,279 souls. In 1672 the Jesuit E 
that there were 2,500 Mandaean fa 
were colonies of them in Muscat, < 
stay in Suq-ash-Shuyukh in the ye 
Siouffi, in 1880, computed the nun 
1,500 were men and boys. 

The Iraqi census of April 1932 g 
Kirkuk, 7; Baghdad, 244; Kut, 51 
738; Amarah, 1,972; Muntafiq, 1,7 

The census of June 1935 gives th 
Baghdad, 125; Dulaim, 5; Diyalah 
Kirkuk, 26; Kut, 84; Muntafiq (ma: 

The Mandaean priest in Ahwaz 
city was 200. 

Note. Mr. Henry Field's forthi 
(Field Museum of Natural Historj 
1937), gives a statistical, anthropon 
the Mandaeans in Iraq. 

ies south and 

Ma) of Iraq and Iran 1 9 

.e ancient Persians, faced south when 

Testament that the original Qiblah of 
in later times, possibly under Iranian 

north the home of evil spirits, 
i at prayer, perhaps because dawn was 
md this is probably the reason why 

onsider the north the seat of Paradise. 
D the relief brought by the north-west 
he North, and Hell (Jekannam) in the 

by the Iraqi Government as a national 

estimate of the Mandaean population 
lissionary, P. F. Ignatius a Jesu, stated 
milies in Mesopotamia, and that there 
3oa, and Ceylon. Petermann, after a 
;ar 1860, gave 1,500 as an estimate, 
iber of Mandaeans as 4,000, of which 

ives the following figures: Mosul, 15; 
; Diwaniyah, 39; Dulaim, 8; Basrah, 


e following figures: Basrah, 783 souls; 

,13; Diwaniyah 31; Amarah, 3,014; 
rshes), 1,329; Mosul, 22: Total 5,432. 
told me that the total of 'souls' in that 

:oming book The Anthropology of Iraq 
*\ Anthr. Mem., Vol. VI, Chicago, 
ictrical, and anthropological survey of 



THE religious writings of the Mandaeans have never been 
printed. Down through the centuries, priestly scribes 
who derived part of their income from such labours copied 
them by hand for pious Mandaeans who believed the 
possession of holy books ensured for them protection from 
evil in this world and the next. Few laymen could, or 
can, read or write Mandaean ; literacy is mostly confined to 
the priestly class. Laymen have complained to me, 'The 
priests will not teach us to read or write (Mandaean)'. 
The reason is a practical one : if laymen knew these arts, 
the priest's prestige would suffer; moreover, writing of 
talismans and charms would cease to be a priestly monopoly. 
At what date the doctrine, rituals, cosmogonies, prayers, 
and hymns were collected and edited is a question not 
easily settled. Their authorship and the date at which 
each fragment, possibly originally memorized, was com- 
mitted to writing is even more problematic. Even such a 
book as the Ginza Rba cannot be regarded as homo- 
geneous, for it is a collection of fragments which are often 
flatly contradictory and belong to different strata of dog- 
matic teaching. Most of them, from internal evidence, 1 
seem to have been committed to writing either in Sasanian 
times or after the Arab conquest. Historical references 
are few, and the only approach to a chronicle is contained 
in the eighteenth book, which gives a list of Parthian 2 
and Sasanian kings. The list ends with 'Khosrau, son of 
Hurmiz', and this prophecy: 

'after the Persian kings there will be Arabian kings. They will 
reign seventy-one years.' 

This indicates that this particular fragment was written 
during the first century of Arab conquest, since the author 
would scarcely have penned an already disproved predic- 
tion. Noldeke points out that Greek loan-words, numerous 

Mandaean 'Religious Literature 2 1 

in Syrian and Palestinian dialects, are few in Mandaean 
writings, and that, while many Hebrew and especially 
Jewish-Aramaic expressions are borrowed: 

'viel geringer an Zahl sind die Worter, welche dem Sprachgebrauch 
der christlichen Syrer entlehnt sfnd, und zwar warden sie fast alle 
direct zur Bezeichnung christlicher Dinge, durchweg in hohnen- 
dem Sinn gebraucht.' (N., p. xxix.) 

So varied are the fragments which form such books as 
the Ginza Rba and the Drasha d Yahya that evidence 
which may date one fragment cannot be used to date 
another. Mandaeans have nothing to compare with the 
Gospels which, in their claim to recount the life and teach- 
ings of Jesus, have a certain unity, or of Manichaean books 
containing the actual doctrines of Man!. The Mandaean 
religion has no 'founder', indeed, from the critical stand- 
point, few religions can be said to have 'founders' or to be 

During the period 500 B.C. to A.D. 500, when syncretistic 
tendencies were active and many religious teachers bent 
on adapting old formulae and ancient rites to fresh con- 
ceptions, an operation hastened by conquest, free inter- 
communication, and occasional interchange of populations, 
one would expect to find amongst the widely diffused 
Aramaic-speaking peoples a common fund not only of 
religious ideas but of religious phrases. Hence it is diffi- 
cult to determine priority when identical phrases are 
found in the religious literatures of the epoch, or to base 
precise conclusions upon such evidence alone. 

Whatever date may eventually be ascribed to the various 
fragments, it is likely that scribes constantly omitted, or 
edited, passages which they considered harmful or heretical. 
The effect produced upon the reader of Mandaean holy 
books is a belief that, even at the time when the earliest 
fragments were collected, an always fluid religion had 
already reached a stage at which earlier teachings had 
become obscure and little understood. Glosses have be- 
come incorporated with the text: obvious interpolations 
and expurgations are evident, in short, to build theories as 

22 Mandaean Religious Liter atur 

to Mandaean origins upon the writings alor 
house upon shifting sands. 

The fact that by slow degrees I have bee: 
the Mandaeans themselves to see, and eventua 
Mandaean books and rolls in Iraq, is a proof < 
kindness and toleration which Mandaean fri 
have shown to me. From the first, the Gii 
freely produced, and so was the Drasha d Y 
codices and rolls were produced reluctantly a 
great secrecy, after years of friendship ; not 
are regarded as less holy, but because they cont 
which should not be shown to alien eyes. ! 
the Diwan Abathur (D.C. 8), the Alf Trisar 
6), the astrological codex (the Sfar Malwa 
readily displayed. When it comes to buying 
or copying them, obstacles are many. Such 
with the Gentile are looked upon as shameful, 
and evasion are resorted to in order to defeat 1 
purchaser, even in the case of an accepted fri 
myself. I avoid the purchase of modern coj 
way of the seeker after older manuscripts is th 

The majority of the manuscripts I have hai 
are not old, although I possess a sixteenth-c 
of the Tafsir Paghra (D.C. 6). I am told tl 
daean manuscript older than the sixteenth c 
in European libraries, indeed, no Europear 
even a representative collection. 

During times of stress and danger, the 
'buried the books', and this has been done, 
them, many times. One reason for the rarit 
copies comes from the fact that the majority oi 
live in reed huts. In winter, fires are kindle 
inflammable buildings, with the result that a 
in reed-built villages are common. I have 
copies of rolls with blackened edges, the ow 
me that when his hut was destroyed by fire, t 
had been miraculously preserved. This is p 
whole structure blazes up in a moment am 
reduced to ashes, whereas thick rolls, or boo 


itings alone, is to set a 

'. have been allowed by 

nd eventually to handle, 

is a proof of the special 

.ndaean friends in Iraq 

5t, the Ginza Rba was 

Irasha d Yahya. Other 

luctantly and only with 

ship; not because they 

e they contain mysteries 

en eyes. Such rolls as 


r ar Malwasha) are not 

to buying documents, 

my. Such transactions 

j shameful, and trickery 

to defeat the would-be 

ccepted friend, such as 

nodern copies, and the 

icripts is thorny indeed. 

I have handled in Iraq 

sixteenth-century copy 

am told that no Man- 

ixteenth century exists 

European library has 

.nger, the Mandaeans 
sen done, according to 
>r the rarity of ancient 
majority of Mandaeans 
are kindled within the 
suit that conflagrations 
I have been shown 
es, the owner assuring 
d by fire, the holy writ 
This is possible the 
oment and is quickly 
Us, or books, wrapped 


in white cloths and 
be dragged out of t 
says that the holy d 
ment (since slaying 
animals are unclean^ 
have seen a Sidra d ! 
lead. It may or may 
for using metal she* 
mersion in running 
priests, all writings 
manner. (See p. i< 
paring a Sidra d Ni 

Rolls are wrappec 
codices bound in ^ 
much scandalized t( 
Drasha d Yahya in 
since committed. 1 
selves and is black a 
own recipe for mak 
form of dry crystals 
typical recipe is as ft 

'Mix glue with rivei 
days. On the seventh, \ 
portion of one mithkal 
days. Mix with water 
will form crystals. Th 
ink. The Asuth Malk; 

I omitted to ask if 
not be unclean, for 
purity and life and i 
them. Other priests 
melted fish-fat. See 
told, be added, but r 
ingredient. The pe 
paper is the best tht 
scribing a Ginza, a< 
to a modern purcha 

Writing is in its 

to set a 

)wed by 
2 special 

in Iraq 
Iba was 
. Other 
nly with 
ise they 

rolls as 
la (B.C. 

are not 

such as 
and the 

I in Iraq 
iry copy 
.o Man- 
ry exists 
rary has 

rding to 

thin the 
i shown 
oly writ 
)le the 


Mandaean R 

in white cloths and kept ii 
be dragged out of the em 
says that the holy doctrine 
ment (since slaying is a c 
animals are unclean), but ( 
have seen a Sidra d Nishm 
lead. It may or may not h 
for using metal sheets is t 
mersion in running water 
priests, all writings used 
manner. (See p. 132.) A 
paring a Sidra d Nishmat 

Rolls are wrapped about 
codices bound in white c 
much scandalized to see t 
Drasha d Yahya in leathe 
since committed. The inl 
selves and is black and shi 
own recipe for making di\ 
form of dry crystals and i 
typical recipe is as follows : 

'Mix glue with river water 
days. On the seventh, pound ii 
portion of one mithkal of char 
days. Mix with water to a sir 
will form crystals. These, mi: 
ink. The Asuth Malka [see a 

I omitted to ask if the gl 
not be unclean, for fish a 
purity and life and no ritu 
them. Other priests use gi 
melted fish-fat. Scented i 
told, be added, but no anin 
ingredient. The pen is a 
paper is the best that can 
scribing a Ginza, accordii 
to a modern purchaser. 

Writing is in itself a j 

daean 'Religious Literature 23 

nd kept in a box, often a metal box, may 
the embers all but unhurt. Tradition 
Y doctrines were never written on parch- 
ng is a destruction of life, the skins of 
:an), but on papyrus, metal, and stone. I 
d Nishmatha (Book of Souls), written on 
nay not have been ancient, for the reason 
heets is that they can be purified by im- 
ng water before use. Formerly, say the 
gs used in ritual were lustrated in this 
132.) A pious priest in Litlata is pre- 
Nishmatha of copper sheets inlaid with 

ped about with white cloth or muslin and 
i white cloth. An orthodox priest was 
d to see that I had bound a copy of the 
in leather, a fault which I have never 
, The ink is made by the priests them- 
:k and shiny. Nearly every priest has his 
laking dluta (ink), which is kept in the 
itals and diluted with water for use. A 
LS follows : 

river water, let it melt, then evaporate for six 
th, pound it with powdered charcoal in the pro- 
kal of charcoal to 25 of glue, for four or five 
iter to a smooth paste, and after evaporation it 
These, mixed with river-water (yardna] form 
[alka [see appendix] should be read over it.' 

k if the glue was fish-glue. If so, it would 
for fish are creatures of the element of 
id no ritual is used for netting or killing 
ssts use gall-nut or soot from fish-oil, i.e. 
Scented herbs and flowers should, I am 
at no animal substance may be used as an 
pen is a reed, split and sharpened; the 
that can be obtained. The cost of tran- 
., according to a priest, is about ^4 IQJ. 
itself a magic act (see chapter on the 

24 Mandaean 'Religious Literatur 

alphabet), conferring merit on the writer, 
sometimes represented as personified, with 
can be invoked in magic (see p. 300). 

The largest of the codices is the Ginza 
Treasure) (D.C. 22), also called the Sidra 
Book), or Book of Adam. It was translate< 
1 8 1 3 by a Swede, Matthew Norberg, and tra: 
commentaries have appeared at intervals sin< 
ing with the late Professor Mark Lidzbarski'; 
in German published in 1925. This was pre 
translation of the Drasha d Yahya in 1 9 1 5, an 
liturgies and hymns in 1920, amongst them 
Nishmatha (Book of Souls: the baptism i 
Masiqta prayers, wedding ritual and hy: 
translation of a roll in the Bodleian Librar 
of the Hijra. Some of the prayers in this 
from manuscripts in Paris, notably from E 

The ritual for ordaining priests ( Sharh 
Tagha d Shishlam Rba), a copy of which is i 
Museum, and that for the reconsecration of 
have not, I believe, been translated, nor do 
to my knowledge, exist in European collectior 
unpublished manuscripts in my own collectic 
section of the Alf Trisar Shiala, the Tafsir 
Diwan Haran Gawaitha, the Diwan d Nahraw; 
a number of magic rolls including the Par 
(D.C. 12), and the Pishra d Ainia (D.C. 21), 
zraztia of Hibil Ziwa and Pthahil, (D.C. 
prayers and rituals in a codex containing a pi 
tion of the same, (D.C. 3), and some ritual re 

To enumerate Mandaean holy books, they 

1. TheGinzaRba. A large codex containing m 
the subj ect-matter cosmogonies, accounts of cr 
legends, &c. The second or left part of thi 
deals exclusively with the dead, is written 
(D.C. 22.) 

2. The Drasha d Yahya. Another collection 
of which only one deals with John. (A code: 


ic writer. Books are 

ied, with a spirit that 


he Ginza Rba (Great 

the Sidra Rba (Great 

translated as early as 
g, and translations and 
:ervals since, culminat- 
idzbarski's fine version 
is was preceded by his 
n 1915, and some of the 
ngst them the Sidra d 
baptism ritual), some 

and hymns, and a 
an Library dated 936 
:rs in this volume are 
ly from De Morgan's 

ts (Sharh d Trasa d 
: which is in the British 
:cration of the cult-hut, 
;d, nor does the latter, 
n collections. Amongst 
ra collection is the first 
the Tafsir Paghra, the 
d Nahrawatha (D.C. 7), 
ig the Parsha Harshia 
D.C. 2 1), and the long 
ill, (D.C. 13 and 15), 
aining a priest's collec- 
ne ritual rolls. 
>ooks, they are : 

ontaining many fragments, 
^counts of creation, prayers, 
t part of this book, which 
, is written upside down. 

r collection of fragments, 
.n. (A codex.) 


3. The Sidra d Nl 
that of the bapt 
D.C. 3.) 

4. The Sfar (prone 

5. The Tafsir Pag 
of the ritual mea^ 
is commonly su] 
(D.C. 6.) 

6. The^/fTrisar 
in five parts. Th 
expiation, explan 

7. The 7/VMrf (Re 
incorporated the 
the Shalshutha^ a: 
(D.C. 3 and D.C 

8. The various tar 
separately, e.g. of 
ganzibra, &c. A] 

9. The Diwans, all 
to be twenty-foui 

10. The magic rolls 
y 'to tie on', a 

Mandaean magic v 
on bowls, have never : 
which they deserve. 
age-old Mandaean cu 
to bury by the threshc 
off by disease two b( 
within which are ins 
spirits of darkness, li 
wish and bring misfc 
light and life. The m 
spirit and idiom, and 
centuries (often witho 
names and spirits men 
dox religion and are r 
small rolls are looked 
misfortune, and the 
as the holy books. 

26 Mandaean Religious Literature 

occasionally one finds beings treated as demons and evil in 
orthodox writings, reappearing in magic rolls as beneficent 
beings, though usually with the angel or deity suffix *il or 
-HI or -HI. For instance the Seven (planets) and the Twelve 
(signs of the Zodiac), execrated in many of the holy writings, 
may be treated as allies and friends. I have a magic roll, 
a love charm (D.C. 10), addressed to Libat (Dlibat, Ishtar), 
which begins, frankly, 'In the name of Libat, mistress of 
gods and men'. Antagonistic references to the planets and 
signs of the Zodiac also appear, sometimes in the same 
phylactery; in fact, orthodox religious convention and 
older charms and exorcisms blend together into a most 
suggestive whole. 

The magic roll is of two kinds. The larger is not easily 
carried on the person. It is usually called a qmaha. The 
smaller, for which the word zrazta is usual though not 
invariable, is written minutely on a long strip of paper 
from 2 to 3 inches wide, tightly rolled and inserted into a 
small gold or silver case so that it may be suspended round 
the neck from a string or chain. This kind of roll is often 
of great length, 7 or 8 yards being not uncommon, and a 
thin paper is used. The magic documents display the 
timorous disposition of their owners, fearful of malice, 
disease, and oppression. Long and bitter are the curses 
poured on the heads of enemies, slanderers, and those of 
other beliefs, while diseases are often personified and 
treated as if they were demons. The astrological name 
of the person for whose protection the roll has been written 
recurs throughout together with invocations of the powers 
of light and life for himself, his family, his possessions, and 
his trade. The first few and last lines are usually the 
letters of the alphabet which, as remarked before, have 
protective powers. Then follow short formulae, such as 
'My lord be praised!', 'Pure of heart, pure of mouth!' 
All have the well-worn 'In the name of the Great Life! 
Health and purity, strength and stability, speech and hear- 
ing, joy of heart and a forgiver of sins may there be for 
N. son, or daughter, of N. (the astrological names)' 3 . In 
holy books and rites, the mother's name, not the father's, 

Mandaean Religious Literature 27 

is mentioned. The conventional 'and Life is victorious', 
which is the usual ending of sections or fragments in all 
writings, is employed, and this is followed by the letters 

S #, separated, as I indicate, by a long line. Amin 

amin sala is sometimes the terminal, so that S a 

may stand for sala. 

John the Baptist is unmentioned in the magic rolls; 
Anush appears in company with Hibil and Shitil, but 
Anush 'Uthra is rare. Yawar Ziwa 4 and Simat Hiia 
(mentioned together) are the two light and life powers most 
frequently invoked. Simat Hiia 5 is a female life spirit and 
is looked on as the mother of all that has breath. She is 
spoken of sometimes as the female 'countenance' of one of 
the great light spirits, sometimes of Shamish, thus tending 
to indicate a possible identification of Yawar Ziwa with 
that planet. In the Diwan Abathur she is placed with 
Bihram and Hibil, and labelled 'daughter of Yushamin, 
spouse of Pthahil'. As Pthahil is associated with death, 
belongs to a somewhat lower spirit circle, and is some- 
times represented as rebellious to the world of light, this 
is a curious juxtaposition. She is evidently a fertility deity, 
for in the same Diwan her throne is labelled, 'This is her 
throne: Leafy is its name'. Her name means 'Treasure of 
Life'. Hibil Ziwa, and less often Manda d Hiia, appear 
in the roles of warrior, deliverer and instructor. In 
some magic texts one of these two, or a nameless spirit of 
light, speaks in the first person, describing how he left his 
companions of light, stormed the dwellings of the gods 
(alahia\ angels (ma/akhta), astartes, and other powers of 
darkness, stole their mysteries and learnt their names. 
The distinction between malkia who are usually kindly, 
and malakhia who are malevolent, should be noted. For 
further description of the magic rolls, which occasionally 
reveal a beauty of phrase and poetical feeling astonishing 
when one remembers the low estate and narrow surround- 
ings of this little race of craftsmen and priests, I refer 
readers to my article on 'Mandaean Writings' in Iraq 
(vol. i, part 2, November 1934). 

The Diwans, said to be twenty-four in number, are 

28 Mandaean Religious Literature 

large rolls, sometimes illustrated. Whether the twenty- 
four exist, for it would be typical to give the number 24 
as a sun-number regardless of fact, I am unable to say. 
The priests show them with reluctance, especially the two 
illustrated Diwans, which contain unorthodox elements. 
They are extremely interesting, however, as throwing light 
on cult, belief, and language. I now possess both. 

The first (D.C. 7), the Diwan Nahrawatha (nearly 6 
yards long and 13 inches wide), is a fanciful chart, with 
explanatory text, of the rivers of the world, making all 
flow down from the Frat-Ziwa (the Light Euphrates), 
which rises in the T ura Karimla. 6 It also gives illustra- 
tions of earthly trees, plants, and reeds, and of some 
heavenly beings. The Jordan does not appear in it, but 
mention is made of yardinia urahatia, i.e. 'Flowing rivers 
and torrents'. 

The second, Diwan Abathur (D.C. 8), is an elaborately 
illustrated roll close on 9 yards long and 1 3 inches wide. 
Before I possessed it myself I induced its owner to make a 
copy of it for a friend, and the pictures were copied with 
really remarkable accuracy, though mistakes were made 
in the text. Some of the illustrations appear in this volume, 
and for others, and a description of the text, which deals 
with the progress of the soul after death through the 
mataratha^ or houses of purification, its arrival at the scales 
of Abathur Muzania, and its transit in a ship of light 
into the worlds of light, I must again refer those interested 
to the article in Iraq. 

Of the unillustrated Diwans, I possess the Diwan Haran 
Gawaitha, described in an earlier chapter. The Diwan 
Malkutha 'laitha and the Diwan Alma 'laya have been 
mentioned to me by Mandaeans, but I have not yet 
succeeded in examining copies. They are regarded as 
very sacred : if these two are missing from the andiruna 
at the consecration of a priest, the consecration becomes 

Other manuscripts which I know to exist but have yet 
to see are the Alma Rishaia Rba ; the Alma Rishaia Zota ; 
the Zihrun Raza Kasia ; the Qadaha Rba ; and the Dmutha 

Mandaean Religious Literature 29 

Kushta. They may be late: they cannot be worthless, and 
one never knows when one may come upon treasure. 
Enough has been said to show that untranslated documents 
have yet to be examined before we arrive at more definite 
conclusions about the Mandaeans and that, in any case, 
the evidence of the literature can be, at most, merely 
contributory, and in no way final. 


1 . 'Die erhaltenen Schriften sind wohl alle in Babylonian entstanden, 
die Hauptmasse in vorislamischer Zeit, doch dauerte die schriftstellerische 
Tatigkeit bis tief in den Islam fort' (GR., p. xii). 

2. Amongst these Ardban figures again. (Artabanus? For kings of this 
name see N. C. Debevoise : "A Political History of Parthia", University 
of Chicago Press, forthcoming.) 

3. In both cases the astrological name is used. Mandaeans are given an 
astrological name for religious and magic uses as well as a worldly name. 
See pp. 81-82. 

4. Tawar 7,iwa. Lidzbarski thinks the word Yawar derived from the 
Persian, with the meaning 'helper, assistant'. I submit that it may rather 
be connected with the verb juu*. t jmj *wr,ywr, 'to be dazzlingly, blindingly 
bright', since c is interchangeable with y in Mandaean. Cf. *tiarutha = 'to 
be brilliant: = tiarutha = 'brilliance', niurun = 'they are dazzled, 
blinded'. Noldeke gives examples of this meaning of brilliance. 

5. Cf. 'the female countenance of Baal' as an epithet for the mother- 
goddess Tanit on Carthaginian inscriptions. See Legend XXIX, and 
the fragment in her name (JB.). 

6. Tura Karimla. Lidzbarski translates (). 203) Karimla in the 
rahmia prayers for Wednesday: (The Mountain Karimla I ascended') and 
in the Ginza Rba (three various passages) as Carmel. Mandaeans deny 
that the mountain is Carmel. 



ritual dress or rasta, which is called *ustlia in the 
JL texts, must be worn on all religious occasions, such as 
baptism, marriage, and death, and as reference will be 
made to it continually, it shall be described in an early 

It is a white dress, 1 symbolical of the dress of light in 
which the pure soul is clad, and all Mandaeans, laymen 
as well as priests, must possess one. The complete rasta 
of the layman consists of five pieces and that of the priests 
of seven, according to the priests of Qal'at Salih; accord- 
ing to those of Amarah, the lay Mandaean wears seven 
pieces and the priest nine. It is a matter of reckoning: 
the Amarah Mandaeans count the sadra with its dasha 
and the drawers and pull-string (takka) at the waist, as 
four pieces, the Qal'at Salih purists as two. I will proclaim 
myself of the Amarah school and enumerate the pieces as 
follows : 

1. The shirt, called ksuya or sadra. It should measure 6 dhra% 
for a living person. (The dhra is the length of the forearm 
from elbow to finger-tip.) For a dying man, 7 or 8 are 
required. It is of white cotton cloth, made or bought in the 
required length. 

2. The da sha, or deysha, a small patch-piece of the same, 
stitched to the outer side of the right breast of the shirt like 
a pocket. 

3. The sharwala or drawers. These are long and loose and 
made like Indian drawers. 

4. The takka^ or takta^ the pull-string of the sharwala at the 
waist. One end of the string is left unsewn. In tying, the 
unsewn end must go over the sewn, and when tied, the sewn 
(completed) end hangs to the right. 

5. The burzinqa, or turban. This is a strip of white muslin about 
a dhra wide, twisted three times round the head. One end is 
left hanging down over the left shoulder. This end is called the 
rughza, and when brought across the lower part of the face 
so as to cover nostrils and mouth, then up over the top of the 

Ritual Dress and Insignia 3 1 

head and tucked in at the right side, it becomes a pandama. 
The pandama is only used by priests, or by hallalia at a funeral 
(see p. 183) and its object is to prevent spittle or breath from 
polluting sacred objects, elements and rites, or, in the second 
case, to prevent the corruption of death from entering the 
mouth and nose. 

In the case of a woman, whose rasta is otherwise the same 
as that of a man, the burzinqa is draped shawl-wise over the 
head and is called shiala. 

6. The nasifa o>\ gabua. A long narrow strip of cloth or muslin. 
It is worn like a Christian stole, but in such a way that the 
left side is considerably shorter than the right. When, during 
the rahmi (preliminary, consecrating prayers) the nasifa is 
placed above the head, and held together under the chin, it is 
called a km-zala. It is afterwards replaced in the original 
position. Its practical use when the pandama is worn (see last 
paragraph) and during baptism will be explained below. With 
the priest, it should be about a dhra wide, but for the layman 
it can be much narrower. 

7. The himlana or belt. This is tubular, woven of sixty woollen 
threads, and its tying has a ritual meaning. The girdle is held 
in front of the body, crossed at the back, tied in a double tie 
in front, and the ends tucked in at each side of the waist into 
the belt itself. It has a tasselled end, unsewn, called the 
karkusha^ and a bound and sewn end, the arwa. The latter 
must be passed over the karkusha in tying, and when the knot 
is complete the karkusha falls on the left and the arwa on the 
right. In tying, the layman pronounces these words: 

Himlana *tris 

Btrin tabia (pron. Bi tren tavi] 

Btrin gatria 

'I consecrate the girdle 
With two virtues 
With two knots.' 

8. Priests only. The tagha or crown; a tubular fillet of white 
silk or cotton. Its making is described on pp. 1 50-1 5 1 . 

9. Priests only. The Shorn (written Shum} Tawar^ a gold ring 
worn on the little finger of the right hand. This ring bears 
the inscription, Shum Tawar Ziwa. 

Before passing on to the other seal-ring, and the rest 
of the insignia of the priest, such as the staff, I must say 

32 Ritual Dress and Insignia 

something further about the above, and tl 
their wearing and their use. 

If any part of the priest's vestment (or insi^ 
disarranged, injured, polluted, or lost, he r: 
prescribed purifications. If, for instance, 
slips aside during a baptism, his ministratior 
and he cannot carry out his priestly duties 
zidqa brikha, or ritual eating for the dead 
XII), has been read over him, and he has beei 
seven priests for seven days. In addition, ] 
8 1 rahmis. As soon as the priest has dressed '. 
rasta^ he must touch every part of it in consecra 
ing himself that it is in place. The tagha and 
wreath, see p. 35), however, receive a separ; 
tion and are not put on at first. The priest 
pronunciation) : 

Sharwaley itres 

Himtanq itres bi tren taw hi tren gatri 
Dasha byaminey^ qam qummey^ 
Rughzey, nasifey 

Marghna bsma/ey, tagha byammey^ 
Uisakhtha (^saqta) byaminey. 
Kushta astakh utrisey. 

'I consecrate (lit. set up) my leggings; 

I consecrate the girdle with two virtues, with two 

The dasha (pouch) on my right; standing upright, 

My rughzci) my stole, 

My staff on my left (arm), my tagha on my righ 

slipped over the right arm until its consecration) 
'And my ring on my right (hand). 
Righteousness make thee whole' (he addresses 

establish me.' 

Though ritually clean, the rasta^ except 
seldom white, for it is stained by the muddy 
river, and may not be washed with soap. It i 
misfortune for a person to die in his lay cl( 
soul cannot reach Abathur. I describe in a 
what means must be taken to remedy this. 

The nasifa becomes useful to a layman 


and the manner of 

it (or insignia) becomes 
I lost, he must undergo 
instance, the pandama 
linistrations are invalid, 
tly duties again until a 
the dead (see Chapter 
ic has been baptized by 
iddition, he must pray 
[s dressed himself in his 
|n consecration, reassur- 
tagha and klila (myrtle 
a separate consecra- 
'he priest says (I give 

hi tren gatri 


, with two knots; 
ig upright, 

>n my right,' (the tagha is 

addresses his rasta] 'and 

;, except when new, is 
ic muddy water of the 
soap. It is the greatest 
bus lay clothes, for his 
ribe in a later chapter 
ly this, 
layman only at death 

anner of 

; invalid, 
n until a 
)tized by 
iust pray 
,elf in his 
, reassur- 
^ (myrtle 
s (I give 

e tagha is 

ista) 'and 

i new, is 
er of the 
i, for his 

at death 










Ritual Dress and Insignia 33 

(see Chap. XI). For the priest, it has a definite use. I 
have already explained that when put on, the right side 
should hang lower than the left. When the rahmi is 
begun, this right side, which might touch the ground 
or some polluting object, is pinched together a little at the 
waist, and this small pinched loop is pushed into the belt. 
After the pandama has been 'closed', i.e. brought across 
the lower part of the face, the left side of the nasifa is 
twisted twice round the neck, holding the lower edge of the 
pandama and preventing it from slipping. The end is 
secured by pushing it thrice in and out of itself. The long 
right side of the nasifa is thrown back over the right 
shoulder, so forming a loop which reaches the waist, and 
the end, carried round behind the head, over the left 
shoulder, and round again to meet the loop, is tied to the 
latter in a double knot. When the priest first goes into 
the water he dips his staff in a horizontal position twice 
beneath the water, then, pushing it through the sling 
formed by the long right end knotted to the loop, he 
releases his hold of the staff, which, supported by the 
nasifa and planted in the mud on the bed of the river, stands 
upright without danger of falling. This enables the priest 
to wash both his hands in the river. He presently returns 
the staff to its position in the crook of the left arm. 
Another use for the nasifa is in the final kus_hta or third 
hand-clasp after the drinking of the mambuha or water of 
the sacrament (see chapter on Baptism). The priest takes 
the hand of the baptized person from underneath the muslin 
of the doubled part of the nasifa at the right side of the 
body. Careless priests, however, give the third kushta bare- 
handed. I have seen it given in both ways, orthodox and 
unorthodox. Again, when the priest momentarily changes 
over the staff from the left to the right side, after the above 
hand-clasp, he holds it with both hands through the muslin 
of the nasifa. At death, both for layman and priest, the 
nasifa (or gabu'd] is a new one and longer than usual. A 
piece of gold and silver or gold and silver threads must be 
sewn to the right and left side respectively. (See Chapter 
XI; also p. 178.) At marriage, the bridegroom holds the 

4363 F 

34 Ritual Dress and Insignia 

end of the ganzibrcts nasifa. Held like this, it becomes, 
as it were, a conductor of virtue and protective purity. 2 

The sadra must be tucked up into the belt before a 
priest descends into the river, though the layman goes 
into the water with his sadra hanging free. The left side 
of the hem is lifted first and drawn through the girdle, 
then the right, then the centre of the front and lastly the 
centre of the back hem. (This is done before the nasifa 
is placed on the head, or thepandama 'closed'.) 

The himiana should be worn in the daytime by a devout 
Mandaean, but not at night; though formerly, if after dark 
a man wished to cohabit with his wife, he used to tie his 
girdle and utter the words, 'The Name of Life and the 
Name of Manda d Hiia is pronounced over thee' before 
coition. This formality is now neglected. When a man is 
dying and his new death-rasta has been put on, the himiana 
is only partially tied, the final knot being made after dis- 

The tagha is the most important part of the priest's 
insignia and must be put on during the rahmi before 
officiating, with four prayers (tar as a). It represents a 
crown of light, and is worn on the head beneath the turban. 
It is the symbol of his function as spiritual and temporal 
leader. 'Crown (tagha) and kingliness are set on his head 
and he is perfected in them', says the Alf Trisar Shiala. 
Consecration of a priest is spoken of as 'the setting up of 
the crown on him', and should the tagha fall accidentally 
from the head or hand of a priest during his offices, he 
becomes a novice and must undergo a form of recon- 

The Shorn Tawar is dipped into the life-giving misha 
(oil) during the masiqta^ but is not used, like the iron 
skandola ring, for sealing, except at the ceremony of the 
Ingirtha (see p. 170). 

When officiating a priest must always carry a staff of 
olivewood. According to some priests, willow may be 
used in case of necessity. While the rasta is symbolical 
of light, the staff (margnaf is associated with water, 
and is often spoken of as 'the staff of living water'. At 













Ritual Dress and Insignia 35 

death, a priest's margna and Shorn Tawar are both buried 
with him. 

The kllla, wreath, or garland, forms an important 
adjunct to ritual dress. It is worn by the priest for most 
of, but not all, his functions, and by the layman after his 
first triple ablution at full baptism. When the priest per- 
forms the rahmi before baptism, he begins by making two 
myrtle wreaths, one for his head, and the other for his 
staff. To make the wreath, the twig of myrtle, which must 
be freshly plucked, is stripped of its lower leaves and split 
as far as the leafy part, then the two divided parts of the 
stem are intertwisted in such a way that the left half is 
twisted twice and the right half three times. The twisted 
stem is bent round and thrust into itself below the leafy 
part, forming a small circlet about a finger's breadth, or 
less, across. During the twisting, the wreath must be held 
on a level with the head, and in such a way that when 
finished, and held in the hands palm downwards, the 
woody ends point to the right, or east. When at the end 
of the consecration and placing of the tagha on the head, 
the klila is put with it, the turban is lifted, but not removed. 
The wreath is pushed through the tagha, the former lying 
uppermost ; and after the turban has been replaced above 
the two, the leafy end of the klila is left showing and hang- 
ing over the right temple. The layman's klila is made and 
placed on his head by the priest. 

The special prayer for the klila is the last of the four 
referred to above. 

Manda created me 

*Uthras set me up, 

They clothed me with radiancy (ziwa) 

They covered me with light (nhura). 

Hazaban placed the wreath on my head, 

Mine, N. son of N., 

And on those who descend into the yardna and are baptized. 

Its wood gleams and its perfume is pleasing, 

It fades not, nor is withered 

And its leaves fall not 

And Life is victorious. 

36 Ritual Dress and Insignia 

The klila for the margna is slipped over the little finger 
until the priest is in the water. There, after its ablution, 
the staff is 'crowned', i.e. the klila is slipped over it and 
allowed to drift off downstream. A klila is also made for 
the drabsha (banner) and sacramental bread during some 
rites. The person baptized carries the klila on the little 
finger of the right hand until after the immersion, and 
after the signing and drinking and first kushta or hand- 
grasp have been performed in the river, the priest places it 
below the head-dress, with the leaves falling over the left 
temple. Some of the uses of the myrtle wreath will appear 
in the course of later chapters. Tradition says that mar- 
mahuz was formerly intertwisted with the myrtle, but the 
Subba do not know now what marmahuz is. 

A passage in the Alf Trisar Shiala speaks of the tagha 
and klila as 'gold' and 'silver', and as ziwa (radiancy or 
active light) and nhura (light) respectively. 

'Gold is the pure mystery of the Father, and silver is the mystery 
of the Mother. The myrtle wreath (klila d asa] is the mystery of 
the Mother, and Nhur Nhura is her name.' 

In other words, the tagha represents the fertilizing or 
active agent, the myrtle the fertilized or receptive agent. 
It may be noticed, also, that the Mandaean word for myrtle, 
asa (sometimes as) also means 'healed', an accentuation of 
the constant theme that ritual ensures vitality and health 
of body and soul. 

Before leaving the subject of the rasta^ I should add 
that Mandaeans are fond of telling me that at one time 
they always wore white, and that it was a sin to wear a 
colour. This reflects a belief that at one time the com- 
munity wore the rasta continually. 

I must deal now with the other seal-ring, which, though 
hardly a part of religious dress, is placed on the hand 
and used during religious ceremonies, thus becoming as 
it were, legitimized. I refer to the skandola. The Shorn 
Tawar is of gold and the skandola is of iron. The Shorn 
Tawar has the name of the great spirit of light inscribed 
upon it, whereas the representations on the skandola are, 
according to all the priests, those of powers of darkness. 

"Ritual Dress and Insignia 37 

The skandola is the talismanic seal-ring, and bears in- 
cised representations of the lion, scorpion, bee (or wasp), 
and serpent. The latter, mouth to tail, forms a frame to 
the others. It is worn during exorcisms, and by those 
isolated for uncleanness, such as childbirth, or marriage. 
The infant's navel is sealed with it; the bridegroom is in- 
vested with it by the ganzlbra at the wedding ceremony; 
and the tomb is sealed with it at the funeral rites. It is 
attached by an iron chain to a haftless iron knife called 
the skan (or sekiri) dola. Mandaeans translate this 'dwelling 
of evil' (skan d u/a). The snake is said by them to be 'the 
serpent without hands or feet', i.e. 'Ur, the great earth 
dragon. It may mean 'life' Ma, for snake (M. hiwai 
Arabic hayya) is symbolical of both water and life. The 
serpent, carved and coloured black, is placed sometimes 
above Subbi door-lintels as a protection, recalling the large 
black serpent portrayed beside the door of the Yazldl 
temple at Shaikh f Adi. 4 I have also seen a serpent of blue 
cotton cloth sewn to a Mandaean wedding-bed canopy. 

The lion may be Aria of the Mandaean Zodiac, and the 
scorpion is probably the Zodiacal Scorpio (Mandaean 
Arqba). Mandaeans say they are Krun and Hagh, two 
of the five lords of the underworld. 

Now the scorpion, snake, and lion are found almost 
invariably in Mithraic bas-reliefs, and the bee is common 
on Mithraic gems (see Cumont, Monuments, &c.). The 
Mithraic scorpion is usually attached to the genitals of the 
sacrificed bull; the serpent's attitude and position varies. 
Sometimes it is shown drinking the blood of the victim. 
The lion's position varies also; sometimes both the lion 
and scorpion are represented in conventional form with 
the Zodiacal circle which not infrequently appears on 
Mithraic monuments. 

Taking into account these Mithraic parallels it may be 
safe to assume that the Mandaean snake, lion, and scorpion 
are also Zodiacal, and of Iranian origin. The Mithraic bee 
differs from the Mandaean, in that it is seen from above. 
The Mandaean bee somewhat resembles the Egyptian byt, 
the hieroglyph for which is a bee in profile. At the same 

38 Ritual Dress and Insignia 

time it must be noted that neither bull nor dog, so 
prominent in Mithraic monuments, figure as Mandaean 
magical symbols. It is worthy of mention that in 
Khuzistan, (in which province there are Subbi com- 
munities), the lion (a sun-symbol) is carved on the tomb- 
stones of the Shl'a dead. No doubt an orthodox explana- 
tion is given. 

A priest told me that the skandola was the talisman 
brought back by Hibil Ziwa from the worlds of darkness 
when he brought Ruha to the upper world. Hirmiz. said 
of the skandola : 

'There are four signs on the skandola^ the hornet above, the lion 
in the centre, the scorpion beneath, and the serpent around them 
with his head lifted towards Awathur (Abathur). The three first, 
the scorpion, lion, and hornet, take worldly souls, those which have 
lived in uncleanness, and throw them into the mouth of 'Ur. In 
the belly of c Ur there is fire one hour and ice the next. At the end 
of the world, when it is time for all that is material to dissolve and 
disappear and f Ur with them the lion and hornet will come to 
'Ur and say, "Give back the souls you have eaten" ! c Ur will reply, 
"There are none. I have none!" They will answer him, "Do 
not lie! You are about to end your existence. Tell us the truth." 
Then he will render back the souls which have been punished, and 
they will go to Awathur.' 

When suffering from insomnia I was advised by a 
friendly Mandaean to sleep with a Shorn Tawar on my 
right hand and a skandola on my left. 5 

FIG. i. The Skandola (talismanic seal) 

Ritual Dress and Insignia 39 


1 . The Rasfa. The wearing of white as a natural symbol of purity is 
universal. The tradition is continuous in Lower Babylonia, the baru priests 
wore white and so, later, did the Magian priests. The white ceremonial 
robes of the Jewish high-priest were probably due to Egyptian ritual rather 
than to Babylonian influences, but the white dress of the Essenes is likely 
to have been part of their ablution and light cult, and derived from Perso- 
Babylonian circles. 

The ceremonial dress of the Parsis, both priests and laymen, is certainly 
closely related to that of the Mandaeans. The priest's dress is calledjama- 
pichodi and consists of 'a flowing white robe, worn over white trousers, a 
white turban and a white belt'. The white dress worn by lay Parsis at 
weddings and funerals is said to replace the complete jama-picfiodi worn in 
ancient times. 

The Parsis call the white shirt of this cult-dress sadreh or sudreh. A small 
pocket sewn on the right side of the sadreh, called the gireh-ban (JJM. 
1 7984), corresponds in every particular to the dasha on the right side of 
the Mandaean sadra . That the Parsis, as well as the Mandaeans, recognize 
the kusti (sacred thread or girdle) as identical with the Mandaean himiana 
is shown by a story told me of a Parsi soldier serving in Iraq during the 
late war. The man lost his kusti, and went to a Mandaean priest in order 
to get a girdle with the requisite number of 72 threads made for him. The 
priest acceded to his request, and tied it for him. Wellstead (Travels to 
the City of the Caliphs, p. 316) quotes a similar case. The kusti must be 
untied and retied at the padyab or morning ablution of the Parsi, just as 
the himiana must be tied at the risjiama (see next chapter). Like the 
himiana, the kusti is of lamb's wool, tubular and white. The Zoroastrian 
putting on his kusti mentions 'good thoughts, words, and deeds', corre- 
sponding to the tabia spoken of by the Mandaean. 

With the Parsis, the turban and padan are the insignia of priesthood 
(JJM. 15 2-3) : 'When that insignia falls off from the head, he is, as it were, 
deposed from his sacred office. So, his Bareshnum, which qualifies him 
for that office, is considered to be vitiated and he has to repeat it if he wishes 
to continue to perform that sacred office.' 

The Parsi padan is the white cloth which covers the priest's mouth and 
nose so that his breath shall not pollute the holy fire (JJM. 1 16). It is tied 
on with two strings and does not form part of the turban, as with the 

2 . Cf. the Parsi paiwand. 'To hold a paiwand means to be in close con- 
tact or touch with each other. This is done when two persons hold a piece 
of cloth or cotton tape between them' (JJM. 55). The Parsi corpse- 
bearers hold & paiwand between them (see ibid.) when they enter the room 
in which the corpse is placed, and so do those persons who go to the funeral. 

3. The Margna. Lidzbarski, pointing out that all the apparatus and 
many of the terms used in Mandaean rites 'appear to be of foreign origin', 

4Q Ritual Dress and Insignia 

instances the margna of olive-wood, though olives are 'extremely scarce' 
in Mesopotamia. Olive-wood is not hard to come by, as there are olives 
in the north, and olive-wood is brought in from Persia. The willow 
occasionally used as a substitute is the gharb (Populus Euphratica, or 
possibly Salix Alba], 

The magic power of sticks and staves is constantly referred to in Man- 
daean legend. 

Diogenes of Laerte says of Magian priests, 'they carry a reed-staff'. 

A cedar-staff was used in sun-worship by the priests of Sippar: 'The 
cedar-staff, beloved of the great gods, they gave into his hand' (Shurpu 

The staff of the Egyptians seems to have had magic uses connected with 
water. Moses' staff divided the waters, brought water from a rock and 
turned into a snake a reptile symbolical of life and water. The fertility 
significance of staves is exemplified, possibly, in both fairy's and wizard's 
wands, and in the king's sceptre. 

4. The snake is still much used as a decoration (e.g. on wooden spoons) 
in Northern { Iraq, particularly in Erbil, also the dove, which was associated 
with the serpent in the worship of Ishtar. Both these themes may have 
been in continuous use since the days when Ishtar of Arbela's shrine was a 
place of pilgrimage. On the votive clay houses found by Dr. Andrae in the 
Ishtar temple at Asshur, both snake and dove are modelled in relief. 

5. An-Nadlm says of a Sabian book called al-Hdtifi that there is to be 
found therein, together with other magical information: 

JA J\ 

Ash-Shahristani mentions that the Sabians prepared talismanic rings 
corresponding to the various aspects of the planets, according to their 
knowledge of astrology. 


MANDAEANS consider celibacy (see note 4, Chap. I) a 
sin and regard the procreation of children as a religious 
duty. So strong is this belief that they hold that even the 
most pious man, if he die unmarried and childless, must, 
after death, pass through the mataratha and, after a sojourn 
in the worlds of light, return to a physical state again and 
become the father of children. A priest told me that the 
idea was unorthodox, for the soul, when it has escaped from 
its prison of flesh, can never again enter a human body. 
In such a case, he said, the soul, reincarnated in a semi- 
spiritual body in the ideal world of Mshunia Kushta, 1 
married there and begot children. In short, if a Mandaean 
has children, he is sure that, when death approaches, he 
will be clothed in his death-rasta, that the necessary rites 
for the dying will be performed, and that the ceremonies 
for his well-being in the next existence will be duly 
carried out. What these are, I shall explain later. 

The soul (nshimta), a priest told me, 'descends from the 
heavenly yardna into the body of a child in the womb of its 
mother when he has been conceived five months. It comes 
in the likeness of the child which is to be born, and exactly 
resembles his dmutha (double, or likeness) in Mshunia 

Birth, death, and marriage bring defilement on those 
who come into contact with them. The woman in child- 
birth, the bride and bridegroom, and those who have 
touched the dead, are debarred from contact with their 
neighbours until they have been purified. 

As her hour approaches, a woman near confinement 
should wash herself and prepare a place for her lying-in, 
for she must keep apart from the rest of the household. 
One of the cattle-sheds, 2 or store-sheds, which are in Man- 
daean houses ranged round the courtyard of the dwelling- 
house, may be used as a temporary refuge. 3 In reed hut 

4363 r . 

42 Lay Life 

settlements provision is easily made for the event. Within 
the shelter chosen, a corner is marked off by a semicircle 
of pebbles, called the misra ad glali, the intention being to 
limit the area of pollution. In this corner the woman 
spreads on the ground something soft or without value, 
such as old clouts; loose, unflocked cotton; or rice-straw 
(butt). Most important is the sheaf of reeds, or shell ah^ 
which is brought into the room if she is a house-dweller, 
so that she may grasp upon it in her pangs. The reason is 
not merely utilitarian, for the gaslah^ or thick marsh reed, 
is considered sacred and a symbol of fertility. 4 Where 
reeds are unobtainable, a piece of wood may be used as a 
substitute. In the reed huts this proceeding becomes a 
natural one, for the mother crouches before one of the 
great supporting bundles (shebaK) which are the ribs of the 
edifice, holding the shebbah with both hands, pressing her 
forehead against the cool, strong reeds, and presenting her 
buttocks to the midwife. This grasping of the reed-bundle 
is not only Mandaean but an ancient practice in the reed- 
country of Lower Iraq. The midwife receives the pre- 
cepts of her craft from another midwife, and is careful to 
observe the rules of isolation. 

As soon as the infant has come into the world, the 
midwife (jiddah) presses down the blood remaining in 
the umbilical cord towards the child ('milks it', in their 
phraseology), then severs the cord, and ties the child's 
navel with a thread of sheep's wool. No especial condition 
is laid down as to the knife. The cord, together with the 
afterbirth, which is called the 'sister', is then removed, 
and either thrown into the river or buried somewhere 
at a distance from the house. I asked a priest if this 
were not polluting to the river. He replied that it was a 
custom which the Subba had taken from their neigh- 
bours, and that just as now it is forbidden to soil living 
water with faeces or urine, it was formerly considered 
wrong to defile the river with blood or dead matter, but 
that this had been neglected and forgotten. 5 

The midwife washes the child with soap and warm 
water (probably a modern practice, as soap is not always 

Lay Life 43 

possessed by marsh-dwellers, a plant being used instead), 
and then rubs its body all over with butter (made by Subba 
and not Gentiles), mixed with salt. Formerly, it was olive 
oil and salt, but olive oil is costly and butter cheap. All 
the rags, cotton, or rice-straw used in the confinement are 
destroyed; sometimes buried, sometimes thrown into the 
river. If the weather is cold, water is brought from the 
river, a little hot water mixed with it, and then thrown 
over the mother so that she is soused from head to foot. 
If it is not cold, however, the mother is helped by the 
jiddah down to the river, and completely immerses herself 
three times. This immersion (the tamasha^ see p. 105), 
with the usual prayers for the major ablution, should take 
place not later than half an hour after the delivery. The 
woman changes into dry garments, incense is burnt about 
her, and the iron seal-ring known as the skandola (see pre- 
ceding chapter) is placed on the little finger of her right 
hand, the knife attached to it by a chain being placed in 
her belt. A lamp is lit, and must be kept burning beside 
the mother day and night for three days. 6 The triple immer- 
sion should take place again on the third, seventh, tenth, 
fifteenth, twentieth, and twenty-eighth day after the birth. 

The woman becomes sorta^ that is, 'cut-off', and all con- 
tact with her must be avoided. Food is pushed into her 
corner from without. She eats off a metal plate, which 
must be changed and put aside for purification after every 
three days' use. At the time of her baptism all the pots and 
plates used by her receive ritual ablution at the hands of 
the priest. For seven days she remains as much as possible 
within her little semicircle of pebbles, which are changed 
after the third day for fresh pebbles, and removed after 
her immersion on the seventh day. 

On the third day fresh myrtle leaves are chopped up 
finely and spread over the navel of the child. According 
to some informants the powdered leaves are mixed with a 
little water, according to others, applied dry. The mother 
usually performs this task. The priest, summoned for the 
ceremony, takes the skandola and presses it upon the navel, 
saying : 

44 Lay Life 

Bshumathun d hiia rbia asutha uzakutha hathamta uzarazta un- 
tarta rabtia d shrara nhuilh Idtlh Plan br Planitha bhazin surta 
uraza d Pthahil ushma d hiia ushma d Manda d hiia madkhar ( lakh. 

'In the Name of the Great Life ! Health and Purity, sealing and 
protection' (zrz, to arm against), 'and the great safeguard of sound- 
ness' (of body and soul) 'be N.'s son of N.' (the Zodiacal name of the 
child has already been settled with the help of the priest), 'by this 
image' (the impression of the seal) 'and mystery of Pthahil. And 
the name of the Life and the name of Manda d Hiia are pronounced 
on thee!' 

The first Sunday after the thirtieth day, if the child is a 
boy, and after the thirty-second day if it is a girl, the 
mother should be baptized with her infant. Some insist 
on forty days and forty-two days. Of the baptism of a 
woman after childbirth I give a description on pp. 1 10 ff. 

Times are lax, and if the weather is cold and the river 
chilled by snow, the mother waits until it is warmer. A 
triple immersion ends the period of her isolation, but until 
she is baptized her husband should not cohabit with her. 
As for the child, it is a common practice to wait until he 
has reached an age of continence, for if he soils or wets 
during the ceremony, penalties are incurred. Some pious 
mothers prefer the ceremony performed at once, for should 
the little one die without baptism, it cannot go to the 
worlds of light, but must remain in the care of Pthahil. 
The same fate overtakes illegitimate children. This is not 
a harsh verdict, for animals graze over the hills of this 
genius of death, trees and flowers are found there, and the 
little ones are suckled by the ''liana d mraha yanqia, 'the 
tree which nourishes nurslings'. It has down-drooping 
branches laden with teat-like fruit, from which the children 
suck milky nourishment. At the end of the world 
Habshaba, the personified Sunday, fetches these children 
and restores them to their mothers in the world of light 
after baptism in the yardna of the heavenly Euphrates. 

When an infant is baptized, a hallali (a layman of ritual 
cleanliness, is found who has similar astrological aspects 
as the child, with the result that his name is of equal 
numerical value (see Chap. VI, pp. 8 1-82). This man acts 

Lay Life 45 

as the ab or father of the child. The hallali wears his rasta 
(sacred dress) and is first himself baptized by the priest, 
who is assisted by a shganda (acolyte). The priest reads a 
rahmi (form of daily prayer) in the name of the child, and 
towards the end of these prayers, the infant is clothed in a 
complete rasta^ and a klila (wreath) of myrtle prepared for 
it. As soon as the rahmi is ended, the hallali takes the 
child, 'asks permission of iheyardtta' in the usual way, and 
goes down into the water with the child in his right arm, 
the right hand beneath the buttocks and his left supporting 
the head. He dips the child's body beneath the water three 
times (the priest splashing water over its head) ; then hold- 
ing the child on his left arm, advances and gives his right 
hand to the priest for the kushta. The child is given three 
sips of water, and is signed with water across the forehead 
three times from right to left. The klila is put on its head, 
then 'father' and child emerge from the river and go to the 
toriana (clay-table for incense, &c.), where the former pro- 
nounces these words: 

Asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun ya malkla uuthrla umashkhinia 
uyardlnia urhatia ushkhmatha d alma d nhura kulalhun. 

'Health and victory (purity) are yours, O melkas and 'uthras and 
dwellers, and flowing waters and streams and all the dwellings of the 
world of light.' 

The child is then handed to the shganda, and he returns 
it to its mother who sits with it facing the north on the usual 
palm-trunk seat, or on her heels. The priest comes out of 
the water, prepares the sesame paste, anoints the child's 
forehead, and follows the usual procedure for the sacrament 
of bread and water. At the time of giving kushta he takes 
the right hand of the child but the shganda replies for the 
child, and at the 'hand-kissing' ceremony the shganda 
again plays the part of the child. 

If during the rite the child has soiled or wetted its cloth- 
ing, the priest continues the ceremony as though nothing 
had happened, but must afterwards go through a complete 
baptism at the hands of a ganzibra and a priest. The child's 
baptism is not invalidated, because it sinned unwittingly, 

46 Lay Life 

and should it die, it is entitled to full burial rites. If it 
lives and reaches an age of decent behaviour (about 6 or 
7), and can speak, the child atones by being baptized in 
a new rasta at the feast of Dehwa Daimana. 

It often happens that during this rigorous ordeal the 
baby dies. As soon as this happens, the proceedings are 
arrested while theganzibra makes dough of white wheaten 
flour and models it into a rough image of the dead child. 
This is clothed with a rasta, and the ceremonies are con- 
tinued from the point at which they left off, with the 
dummy in the place of the child. The hallalia, summoned 
for the burial, place the dummy with the corpse in the 
bania (reed wrapping for a corpse), and bury it with the 
child in the grave. The usual lofanis and zidqa brikha 
(see Chap. XI) follow. Like all newly baptized children, 
on the third day after death, the soul of the dead baby 
flies quickly and unharmed through the Mataratha (purga- 
tories, p. 198) and reaches the world of light, for its 
baptism is regarded as complete, though, on the seventh 
day, it is safeguarded by a special lofani eaten in its 

The officiating tarmida (priest), however, is defiled, and 
must receive the 'baptism of Shitil', i.e. receive triple 
baptism and triple sacraments of bread and water at the 
hands of three priests, one of whom must be 3,ganzibra y for 
seven days. His baptism is preceded by a zidqa brikha* 
and he must wear a new rasta^ have a new margna (staff), 
and be invested with a new tagha (fillet). During the week 
he must read three rahmia daily. After these ceremonies he 
is allowed to resume his duties as a priest. 

There is a special genius concerned with childbirth who 
is responsible for the well-being of the infant before it is 
born and after. In the Drasha d Yahya 7 she is spoken of as 
a lilith, but even there, the term is not used opprobiously, 
and in general, she is looked upon as a kindly spirit of 
light. Her name is Zahari c il and she seems to be related 
to Ishtar or Venus (Zahara) in the capacity of genius of 
generation and childbirth. Shaikh Dukhayil identified her 
with the latter, and also with Simat Hiia. In myth, she is 

Lay Life 47 

the wife of Hibil Ziwa, who espoused her in the realms of 
darkness (see pp. 271 ff.). 

Every mother must suckle her own child, and it is for- 
bidden to act as foster-mother for hire. Such a provision 
may be thought curious, but the women of shaikhly Arab 
families hand over their children at birth to a wet-nurse, 
lest they spoil their own beauty, or, possibly, so that there 
may be no obstacle between them and their lords. Poor as 
the Subbi marsh-dwellers are, they never 'sell their breast- 
milk' for fear of punishment in the after-life. 

The father is responsible for his son's education and 
keep until the boy has reached his fifteenth, or some say 
twentieth, year. The child must be educated, disciplined, 
nourished, and taught his religious duties and ablutions. 
He must be taught how to put on his rasta^ how to tie the 
sacred girdle, and how to perform the rishama and tamasha 
(the minor and major ablutions). Before eating he must 
wash his hands and arms as far as the elbow, and he must 
pronounce the name of the Life and of Manda d Hiia over 
his food. * "In the Name of the Life and in the name of 
Manda d Hiia" be pronounced upon thee, O Tabta!' 
the same formula as that pronounced over the first mouth- 
ful of lofani or ritual food (p. 1 8 8). He is taught that he 
may not eat meat not ritually slaughtered, that he may not 
touch blood, or any kind of pollution. He is taught what 
flesh is permitted, and what is forbidden, and is told that 
Hibil Ziwa, when Pthahil created the living creatures of 
the earth, instructed Adam as to what was lawful for food. 
Every growing thing that has seed is lawful : hence the 
mushroom is forbidden. All birds of prey and all fish- 
eating birds are unlawful, also the rook, crow, and a long- 
legged long-billed marsh bird known as the zurgi. The 
raven, perhaps for the same reason as that which causes its 
appearance on Mithraic bas-reliefs, is considered a pure 
bird and may be eaten without blame. The camel, horse, 
pig, dog, rat, rabbit, hare, and cat are forbidden (not 
only to the Mandaean but also to his Moslem and Jewish 
neighbours). Whereas these neighbours, however, are 
great eaters of beef, which is cheaper than mutton, the 

48 Lay Life 

Mandaean considers it a crime to kill either buffalo or ox. 
The sacredness of the latter animals, especially the bull, to 
the Life and to the Sun is recalled by the uncompromising 
veto on their flesh. 'Hiwel Ziwa', said a ganzibra to me, 
'created these animals for ploughing, for draught, and for 
the production of milk, and not for food.' At the same 
time, no especial religious importance is attached to the 
living cow; no virtue to cattle dung or urine as with the 
Parsis, and no magic to milk, though a milker should 
always say 'The name of the Life and the name of Manda 
d Hiia is mentioned upon thee' before starting to work on 
the udders. Fish may be eaten, though scaleless varieties 
are forbidden ; they are caught with nets or hooks in the 
usual fashion. 

In practice, little meat is eaten, and the attitude towards 
slaughter is always apologetic. 

'To kill, even according to the rites for slaughter, is a 
sin', said one layman, and several pious Mandaeans have 
told me that a deeply religious man forswears meat and 
fish. It will be seen in the legends that the Nasorai are 
represented as vegetarians, an Indo-European and Buddhist 
rather than a Semitic trend of thought. The Ginza gives 
contradictory views about flesh-eating. 8 All killing and 
blood-letting is sinful, but flies, vermin, scorpions, and all 
harmful stinging things (rashi bisjn in the ratna] may be 
slain without sin, I was informed. At the same time, the 
Subba show a lazy tolerance of flies, lice, and similar pests ; 
I think that they scarcely notice their existence. 

I might call attention here to the curious fact tnat the 
chicken and eggs, although eaten as articles of daily food, 
never form part of a ritual meal. It is thought, moreover, 
that a death will occur in the house if an egg is given away 
after sunset. I give an account elsewhere of the slaughter 
of a sheep, which, in ritual, does not differ from its 
slaughter for ordinary food. I will here describe the 
ordinary slaughter of fowls for the pot. 

The slaughterer must be either a hallali or a priest. I 
watched Shaikh Dukhayil slaughter a couple of chickens. 
The proceedings began in the shaikh's house, with the 










>-i '-t- 1 
rt O 
G > 



I I 









Lay Life 49 

rahmi or preliminary prayers, with the consecration of the 
rasta, piece by piece, including the tagh_a as described 
elsewhere. For these prayers, he stood barefoot on a mat 
in his courtyard facing the north, and carrying his staff 
(margna). He then went down to the river, bearing a small 
stick and a haftless knife. He explained later that the only 
reason that the latter was of metal was that it must later be 
purified by being heated red-hot in a fire. 

He first performed the rishama (minor ablution) at the 
water's edge and then gave his knife, the little stick (which 
may be of any 'clean' wood), and his staff, their ablutions 
in the river. Whilst the two former were completely sub- 
merged three times, only the end of the margna was 
washed. The usual baptismal formula was spoken over 
each object (v. p. 104, e.g., margnai asvina bmaswetta d 
Bahram Rba bar rurbi, etc.). Meanwhile an assistant priest, 
who did not wear a rasta^ waded into the river bearing the 
two fowls, which he ducked three times beneath the surface. 
No imperfect beast or bird may be sacrificed, and these 
fowls were whole and healthy. The presence of this assis- 
tant, or 'witness', is obligatory at any slaughter to ensure 
that nothing is scamped or irregular. 

Shaikh Dukhayil now turned his back on the river in 
order to face the north, and prayed at some length. Then 
he crouched on his heels, received the wet fowls one by 
one from the priest, and, holding each so that its head was 
to the west, he drew the knife several times across the 
throat, cutting so deeply that the head was almost severed 
from the body. When using the knife he held the small 
willow-stick pressed against it, and pronounced the formula 
for slaughter given on p. 137. The birds did not struggle. 
He then returned to the river, washed his hands and knife, 
and allowed the stick to float away downstream. The 
fowls were carried off to the kitchen, but not permitted to 
touch any defiling object. Once a beast or bird destined 
to die has been immersed three times, the utmost care must 
be taken not to let it touch the ground. Though birds 
killed for food or cult-meals may be of either sex, it is 
forbidden to slaughter female beasts. 

4363 H 

50 Lay Life 

Shaikh Dukhayil returned to his house, stood barefoot 
on the mat facing the north, as before, and prayed the long 
de-consecrating prayers necessary before he removed his 
tagha and rasta. No myrtle is used during the slaughter, 
for this is above all a symbol of life, and must not be used 
unless the small stick held with the knife be of myrtle- 
wood, and in that case, all its green leaves are removed. 
Any spot of blood which may happen to fall on the priest 
or bystanders is most carefully washed, with prayers, for 
blood is defiling. 9 

Vegetables and all foods must be purified by triple im- 
mersion in the river, and pots and pans must at certain 
times be baptized, I0 especially at Panja, when every house- 
wife brings her kitchen utensils of all kinds to receive 
ritual ablution. She habitually washes her clothes and all 
household objects in the river, for 'cut-off* water is dead 
water, and therefore a pollution rather than a purification. 11 

The Mandaeans have some customs which the priests 
told me were 'irreligious'. When a new house is built, a 
sheep is killed as fidwa (ransom), and its head is buried 
beneath the threshold. Similarly, when a bride enters the 
house for the first time, or when a wife enters a new dwell- 
ing, one or two birds (doves or cocks) are killed near her 
foot as she steps over the threshold. I have seen this per- 
formed. The bird was killed by a layman, who cut its 
throat, rubbed the blood on the bare foot of the bride, and 
then hurled the still struggling corpse into the river. The 
threshold is of importance, and is protected by charms. 
Blue beads or pottery are inserted above the door, a snake, 
symbolical of life, is carved above or by it, or a curious little 
rag doll sewn over with blue buttons, cowries, gall-nuts, 
and other charms, is suspended above it. (This doll is also 
used by Iraqi Jews.) In times of sickness, in the case of sus- 
pected evil eye, or sometimes after a death, metal dishes 
or plaques inscribed with magical formulae are buried 
underneath the threshold, particularly of reed huts, to 
prevent evil influences or disease demons from passing in. 

In his home a child learns his prayers and his re- 
ligious duties. 'Baptism, alms, and good deeds make 

Lay Life 51 

the perfect Mandaean', and these good deeds include 
scrupulous performance of death rites and observance of 
the cult of the dead. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are 
accessible to most Mandaean boys and girls in the Iraqi 
Government schools, and an increasing number of the 
school-trained generation go on to the secondary schools 
and eventually become schoolmasters. Few lay Mandaeans 
know their own script or holy books ; such studies are left 
to priests, and the number of those who can read, write, 
and partially understand Mandaean is lessening as the 
priestly class diminishes. In most of the larger Subbi 
communities there are Subbi teachers. For instance, at 


Qal'at Salih, in the Government school for boys there is a 
Subbi master and in that for girls, a Subbiyah mistress. 
The latter, a gentle girl with a charming smile, was trained 
in the Teachers' Training College, Baghdad. 

Though school-trained youngsters have the usual am- 
bition, to become Government clerks, and often end in 
discontented unemployment, a number of Subbi boys 
follow the trades of their fathers and learn to become silver- 
smiths, ironsmiths, and boat-builders. Subbis provide the 
Arab bride with the jewellery which is often her sole 
dowry, and some of this is attractive, especially the great 
swinging, half-moon tarachis or ear-rings of filigree gold 
set with pearls, turquoises, or rubies. In Baghdad the 
Subbi silver-shops, congregated together, are small, open 
booths with box-like show-cases. Their silverware is un- 
like that of local Iraqi or Jew silversmiths, the latter being 
coarse and clumsy. The Subbi work is neat and finished, 
and its principal feature is black inlaid decoration, a process 
which they keep secret. The design is first scratched on, 
then filled in with antimony and fired. The decoration 
takes the form of floral patterns, of scenes from river life, 
the Arch of Ctesiphon, or Ezra's tomb, and if required 
the Subbi craftsman will copy a photograph submitted to 
him by his customer, selecting the essential lines with 
skill. Sometimes the inlay is coloured. 

The boat-builder's craft is an ancient one. The generic 
term for the shallow, wide boat used in the marshes is 

52 Lay Life 

mashhuf. It is of simple design, carvel-built, with inner 
ribs curving up from a centre-piece or backbone, ending 
in long beaks at prow and stern which are used to nose a 
way through the rushes and reeds. In order of size, these 
mashahtf are called the bargesh^ the tarradah, and the little 
fishing chalabiyah. The boats are daubed over on the 
exterior with pitch, which the boat-builders apply with a 
rag, smoothing it with a roller. Agricultural implements, 
ploughs, spades, reaping-hooks and bills, are all Subbi- 
made, and it is the Subbis also who forge the fish-hooks, 
and the three-pronged and five-pronged fish-spears for 
the marsh fishermen. 

The older generation sees modern changes with mis- 
giving. A perter generation is growing up, not silent 
before its elders. 

'At school we learn that the world is round and moves 
round the sun', burst in the sons of a ganzibra who was 
telling me that the world is square and fixed. 'Young 
people nowadays think they know everything,' said their 
mortified father. 

They have a grievance, that no official notice is taken 
of Mandaean feast-days. Moslem, Jewish, and Christian 
children are allowed to have holidays on their big feast- 
days, but the Subbi must plead sickness if he wishes to 
stay at home for such a day as the first day of the year. 

Dancing, play-acting, juggling, and music are for- 
bidden to the puritanical Mandaean. However, I have 
seen Subbiyah girls sing and dance the latter with the 
body-swayings, stomach twitchings, and muscle jerkings 
characteristic of the country but only in their own homes 
on gleeful occasions ; and the younger generation, though 
the pious disapprove, attend the cinema. As a race, they 
look serene and happy. 

Character. Here I must notice a point on which they 
differ essentially from their neighbours. They possess a 
genuine love of nature, as will be seen in the Mandaean 
tales and legends given in this book. An Arab, though he 
admires beauty in a woman or a horse, sees personal com- 
fort rather than actual loveliness in a natural scene : a tree 


a. Reed-hut village 

. Subbi boat-builders pitching a boat 

52 Lay Lije 

mashhuf. It is of simple design, carvel-built, with inner 
ribs curving up from a centre-piece or backbone, ending 
in long beaks at prow and stern which are used to nose a 
way through the rushes and reeds. In order of size, these 
mashaJuf are called the barges]^ the tarrddah^ and the little 
fishing chalabiyah. The boats are daubed over on the 
exterior with pitch, which the boat-builders apply with a 
rag, smoothing it with a roller. Agricultural implements, 
ploughs, spades, reaping-hooks and bills, are all Subbi- 
made, and it is the Subbis also who forge the fish-hooks, 
and the three-pronged and five-pronged fish-spears for 
the marsh fishermen. 

The older generation sees modern changes with mis- 
giving. A perter generation is growing up, not silent 
before its elders. 

'At school we learn that the world is round and moves 
round the sun', burst in the sons of a ganzibra who was 
telling me that the world is square and fixed. 'Young 
people nowadays think they know everything,' said their 
mortified father. 

They have a grievance, that no official notice is taken 
of Mandaean feast-days. Moslem, Jewish, and Christian 
children are allowed to have holidays on their big feast- 
days, but the Subbi must plead sickness if he wishes to 
stay at home for such a day as the first day of the year. 

Dancing, play-acting, juggling, and music are for- 
bidden to the puritanical Mandaean. However, I have 
seen Subbiyah girls sing and dance the latter with the 
body-swayings, stomach twitchings, and muscle jerkings 
characteristic of the country but only in their own homes 
on gleeful occasions; and the younger generation, though 
the pious disapprove, attend the cinema. As a race, they 
look serene and happy. 

Character. Here I must notice a point on which they 
differ essentially from their neighbours. They possess a 
genuine love of nature, as will be seen in the Mandaean 
tales and legends given in this book. An Arab, though he 
admires beauty in a woman or a horse, sees personal com- 
fort rather than actual loveliness in a natural scene : a tree 


f. Reed-hut village 

. Subbi bout-builders pitching a boat 

52 Lay Life 

mashhuf. It is of simple design, carvel-built, with inner 
ribs curving up from a centre-piece or backbone, ending 
in long beaks at prow and stern which are used to nose a 
way through the rushes and reeds. In order of size, these 
mashahtf are called the bargesh^ the tarrddah^ and the little 
fishing chalabiyah. The boats are daubed over on the 
exterior with pitch, which the boat-builders apply with a 
rag, smoothing it with a roller. Agricultural implements, 
ploughs, spades, reaping-hooks and bills, are all Subbi- 
made, and it is the Subbis also who forge the fish-hooks, 
and the three-pronged and five-pronged fish-spears for 
the marsh fishermen. 

The older generation sees modern changes with mis- 
giving. A perter generation is growing up, not silent 
before its elders. 

'At school we learn that the world is round and moves 
round the sun', burst in the sons of a ganzibra who was 
telling me that the world is square and fixed. 'Young 
people nowadays think they know everything,' said their 
mortified father. 

They have a grievance, that no official notice is taken 
of Mandaean feast-days. Moslem, Jewish, and Christian 
children are allowed to have holidays on their big feast- 
days, but the Subbi must plead sickness if he wishes to 
stay at home for such a day as the first day of the year. 

Dancing, play-acting, .juggling, and music are for- 
bidden to the puritanical Mandaean. However, I have 
seen Subbiyah girls sing and dance the latter with the 
body-swayings, stomach twitchings, and muscle jerkings 
characteristic of the country but only in their own homes 
on gleeful occasions; and the younger generation, though 
the pious disapprove, attend the cinema. As a race, they 
look serene and happy. 

Character. Here 1 must notice ;i point on which they 
differ essentially from their neighbours. They possess a 
genuine love of nature, as will be seen in the Mandaean 
tales and legends ^iven in this hook. An Arab, though he 
admires beaufy in a woman or a horse, sees personal com- 
fort rather than actual loveliness in a natural scene: a tree 


Reed-hut village 

. Subbi boat-builders pitching a boat 

52 Lay Life 

mashjiiif. It is of simple design, carvel-built, with inner 
ribs curving up from a centre-piece or backbone, ending 
in long beaks at prow and stern which are used to nose a 
way through the rushes and reeds. In order of size, these 
mashahtf are called the barges_h_, the tarradah, and the little 
fishing ch_alabiyah. The boats are daubed over on the 
exterior with pitch, which the boat-builders apply with a 
rag, smoothing it with a roller. Agricultural implements, 
ploughs, spades, reaping-hooks and bills, are all Subbi- 
made, and it is the Subbis also who forge the fish-hooks, 
and the three-pronged and five-pronged fish-spears for 
the marsh fishermen. 

The older generation sees modern changes with mis- 
giving. A perter generation is growing up, not silent 
before its elders. 

'At school we learn that the world is round and moves 
round the sun', burst in the sons of a ganzibra who was 
telling me that the world is square and fixed. 'Young 
people nowadays think they know everything,' said their 
mortified father. 

They have a grievance, that no official notice is taken 
of Mandaean feast-days. Moslem, Jewish, and Christian 
children are allowed to have holidays on their big feast- 
days, but the Subbi must plead sickness if he wishes to 
stay at home for such a day as the first day of the year. 

Dancing, play-acting, juggling, and music are for- 
bidden to the puritanical Mandaean. However, I have 
seen Subbiyah girls sing and dance the latter with the 
body-swayings, stomach twitchings, and muscle jerkings 
characteristic of the country but only in their own homes 
on gleeful occasions; and the younger generation, though 
the pious disapprove, attend the cinema. As a race, they 
look serene and happy. 

Character. Here I must notice a point on which they 
differ essentially from their neighbours. They possess a 
genuine love of nature, as will be seen in the Mandaean 
tales and legends given in this book. An Arab, though he 
admires beauty in a woman or a horse, sees personal com- 
fort rather than actual loveliness in a natural scene: a tree 


?. Reed-hut village 

. Subbi boat-builders pitching a boat 

Lay Life 53 

to give him shade, running water at which he may drink, 
a garden in which he may entertain his friends. But the 
darawisk of Mandaean tales behold Nature in a mystic 
light. They delight in Nature as apart from man. The 
birds are praying to the Great Life, the stars and the sun 
chant His praises in harmonies which the pure can hear. 
This mysticism enters into the actions of daily life. If I 
give a Mandaean a few flowers, he murmurs as he bends 
over them (I speak from experience) the beautiful formula 
'Perfume of Life, joy of my Lord, Manda of Life!' 12 In 
spite of an original asceticism that saw in all functions of 
the body a species of defilement which laid him open to the 
attacks of evil spirits, the Mandaeans have joy in life, and 
in marriage, though the latter is protected by elaborate 
ritual which aims at health and cleanliness. The mortifica- 
tions, dirtiness, and self-deprivation of Christian asceticism 
in its medieval stage are unknown to these joyous mystics. 
All that the Spirit of Life sends is a good girt, to be used 
with praise. In spite of the sin-conscious tones of the 
prayers, life is a pleasant thing, and the earth a happy 
prison. Death does not exist, since the living and the dead 
constantly meet at the table of the ritual meal. 

When the soul flies like a released bird, and after its 
purification reaches the realm of light, all that is lovely on 
earth is found there in its perfection. In the Mandaean 
worlds of light there are no seas of glass, no walls of gold, 
no cities as in the Jewish Heavenly Jerusalem, no material 
delights and houris as in the Moslem Paradise. Beauty and 
purity are found there; heavenly ether, 13 air most pure and 
clear ; streams of living water, fadeless flowers, immortal 
singing-birds, and trees whose leaves never wither and fall. 

I do not wish to paint a one-sided picture of Mandaean 
character. The Subba have the faults of their neighbours, 
and share with them a modified appreciation of the value 
of truth. Some priests, I fear, often think more of their 
fees than of their flock. Although they believe that a man 
who dies a violent death suffers long and painful disability 
in the next world unless he receives costly masiqatha 
(masses, or ritual meals for the dead) read in his name, few 

54 Lay Life 

consent to perform these death rites without the customary 
fees. 'We must live', is their answer. However, there are 
fine characters amongst them, and I have the deepest 
respect for such splendid old men as Shaikh Joda, Shaikh 
Dukhayil, and Shaikh Rum!, the ganzivri of Amarah, 
Nasoriyah, and Qal'at Salih respectively. The flame of a 
genuine piety glows in the eyes of the dark and tem- 
peramental Shaikh Nejm when he expounds Mandaean 
teaching to his poor little flock at Litlata. It is said that of 
the wild-looking, poverty-stricken marsh Mandaeans who 
come to him for baptism, he often expects no offering but 

Mandaean women go unveiled, are free of movement, 
may own property and inherit it. Polygamy falls hardly 
upon some of them, although others live on good terms 
with a fellow wife, especially if the husband is an old man. 
Their homes are often dirty. The courtyard is shared 
with the cattle, manure lies in the narrow space, and is 
carried into the rooms on the feet and in the form of dust. 
Flies are unnoticed, and the older generation are not 
ashamed of lice, which they regard as a natural condition 
of the hair and body. Only schooling can change this 
habit of thought. They are hard-working, and on the 
whole healthy and good-looking, though the men are the 
better-looking, and the old men are often actually beautiful. 
I have seen a Subbiyah mother and child that looked like 
a Madonna and holy babe, and the entire race is famous 
for good looks, so much so that 'as handsome as a Subbi' 
is a proverb. They marry young, often at the first sign 
of puberty. But marriage and death are such important 
subjects that they must have later chapters to themselves. 


i. Mshunia Kus_hta. The meaning seems to be 'the translated, or 
removed (i.e. from us) righteous'. Mshunia Kushta is the ideal world of 
the Mandaeans, and peopled by the descendants of Adam Kasia and Hawa 
Kasia (the hidden, or mystical Adam and Eve) ; for, as one priest told me, 
'of all things there are two, an actual, and its mabda (ideal, or arch-type)'. 
Another explained that each individual on this earth has his double (dmutha, 

Lay Life 

or likeness) in Mshunia Kushta, and at the time of death the earthly in- 
dividual leaves his earthly body and assumes the more ethereal body of his 
double. It is in the latter body that the human soul goes through the pains 
of purification. As for his double in Mshunia Kushta, at the time of the 
earthly double's dissolution, he quits the ethereal body which he inhabited 
for a light-body, and, being perfectly pure, he proceeds at once to the 
worlds of light. When the human soul has completed the cycle of its 
purification, and the scales of Abathur Muzania have proved it to be freed 
of all grossness, it, too, enters the world of light, and the two are united. 

Alanpia dmuth. nafiqna 
Udmuthai alanpai nafqa 
Mithanna umikarkbia 
Akwath. d mn shibia athtt. 

'I go towards my likeness 
And my likeness goes towards me; 
He embraces me and holds me close 
As if I had come out of prison.' 

Beasts, birds, flowers, and indeed the whole physical universe, have a 
spiritual counterpart in Mshunia Kushta, and its inhabitants are said to 
marry and have children, but without pollution in the processes. Some- 
times they are represented as communicating with their doubles on earth, 
cf. the Miriai story (JB. 1 26) in which the sleeping girl is waked and warned 
by her 'sister in Mshunia Kushta'. See Bk. II, p. 287. 

The similarity between the Mandaean soul (nshimta) and 'likeness' 
(dmutha) and the urvan 23\&fravashi of the Zoroastrians is striking. 

'On the death of a person, his soul (urvan or ravan) meets with justice 
according to his merits or demerits. If he has deserved well, he goes to 
heaven, if not, to hell. His Fravashi, which guided him through life as a 
guiding spirit, parts from his soul and goes to its abode or place among all 
the Fravashis. It is the soul (urvan) that meets with good or evil con- 
sequences of its actions. The Fravashi or the guiding spirit, was pure and 
perfect, unalloyed and uncontaminated from the beginning and has passed 
away as such. So it is this pure and perfect spiritual identity, the Fravashi, 
that is the medium, as it were, of the continued relation between the living 
and the dead' (JJM., p. 423). 

'According to the Avesta, all natural objects have their Fravashis, but 
not the objects that have been made from those natural objects. For example 
the trees have their Fravashis, but not the chair or table that has been made 
from the wood of the tree. God has created the Fravashis of these natural 
objects from the very beginning of creation. Before the creation of the 
object, there existed the Fravashi of that object, perfect, complete, and 
correct' (JJM., p. 412). 

The dmutha seems to be the 'External Soul' (JGF. iii. 351 ff.). 

The belief in an ideal, half-human world between the worlds of light 
and our world is an early one, and persisted into early Christianity, but 
possibly through Neoplatonism. The Vedic Garden of Yama, the ideal 

56 Lay Life 

world of the Essenes, and, far later, the Arab Jaztrat-al-Khadhra, all 
belong to the same group-idea. The inhabitants wear white, are perfectly 
pure, and are often communistic. As in the Isle of Avalon, no harsh wind, 
or tempest, or extreme of hot and cold mars its equable climate. Josephus 
(Whiston's translation revised by Shillito vol. iv, p. 155) says of the 
Essenes: 'They think also, like the sons of the Greeks, that good souls have 
their habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed 
with storms of rain or snow, nor with intense heat, but refreshed by the 
gentle breathing of the west wind which perpetually blows from the 


The Mandaeans have varying theories as to the whereabouts of this 
ideal world. Some maintain that it is in the north, and divided from 
the actual world by a high and icy mountain. A favourite theory is, 'It 
hangs between heaven and earth, and is invisible to us. Its inhabitants are 
purer than we are and our eyes cannot see them.' My old friend Hirmiz 
bar Anhar remarked once, 'There is a star inhabited by men, the descendants 
of the Hidden Adam (Adam Kasia), but they are semi-spiritual in nature, 
and not gross like ourselves. This star is called Merikh, and is the star of the 

Another description was 'Mshuni (so pronounced) Kushta is in the 
north, beyond the region of snow and ice. It is always light there, and the 
dwellers in Mshunia Kushta can converse with and see the melki and 
( uthri.' 

Just as Hibil Ziwa is the tutelary spirit of the earth, Shishlam Rba, his 
etmutha, is the guiding spirit of the world of Mshunia Kushta. 

2. Can it be that a similar usage was the reason for the Nativity in a 

3. Parsis also isolate the mother. 'A room or part of a room, generally 
on the down-floor, is prepared and set apart for the purpose' (JJM., p. 5). 
Forty days is the time for the separation. 'On delivery, the mother is 
enjoined to remain apart from others. She is not to come into contact with 
fire, water, and other furniture of the house, especially wooden furniture 
and linen articles. Her food is to be served to her on a plate by others. 
Those who have to come into contact with her have to bathe before they 

mix with others At the end of the forty days, which is the period of the 

confinement, the lady has to purify herself before ordinarily mixing with 
others. At first she takes an ordinary bath and then goes through what is 
called 'nan', a contraction of the Sanskrit word 'snan' which is a sacred 
bath. A priest, generally the family priest, administers that bath with con- 
secrated water. All the bedding and clothes of the woman, used after the 
forty days of her confinement after delivery, are rejected from ordinary 
use. They are enjoined to be destroyed . . .' (JJM., pp. 67). 

4. Hence, perhaps, the origin of the bundle of reeds as the symbol of 

5. Defilement of the water. Strabo refers to such an idea as peculiar to 
the Persians: 'the Persians never pollute a river with urine, nor wash, nor 

Lay Life 57 

bathe in it; they never throw a dead body nor anything unclean into it' 
(The Geography of Strabo translated by Hamilton and Falconer, 1857, 
vol. iii, p. 137). 

In the Vendidad the throwing of impurities into water is prohibited. 

Herodotus (bk. i, p. 138, Carey's translation, Bonn's series, 1889) says: 
'(the Persians) neither make water, nor spit, nor wash their hands in a 
river, nor defile the stream with urine, nor do they allow anyone else to 
do so.' 

Mandaeans think that a man who urinates into a stream will become 
subject to skin-disease. 

6. 'On the birth of a child, a lamp is lighted and kept burning, for at 
least three days, in the room where the lady is confined. The Saddar says: 
"When the child becomes separate from the mother it is necessary to burn 
a lamp for three nights and days if they burn a fire it would be better 
so that the demons and fiends may not be able to do any damage and harm ; 
because when a child is born, it is extremely delicate for those three days" ' 
(JJM, P . 6). 

7. In the Drasha d Tahya : "/ arsaiin d batinatha Zahr'il lilitha shfia' 
'Zahriel, the lilith, stays by the couch of pregnant women.' 

8. GR. 20, 125; GR. 9, 31. 

9. Also for the Parsis and the Jews. Maimonides says 'the Sabians 
regarded blood as something most unclean, but ate it, nevertheless, because 
they held it for the food of demons, and believed that, through partaking 
of it, a man entered into relationship with the demons, so that they visited 
him and unveiled for him the future.' He says, further, that others could 
not bring themselves to drink the blood, but collected it in a vessel and ate 
the flesh of the animal slaughtered, sitting round the blood. Thus they 
sat in friendly fellowship with the demons who drank the blood and 'then, 
they imagined, the demon would appear to them in a dream and discover 
the future to them and instruct them usefully'. (Ch. S. Bd. ii, 4812). 

The Arabs believe that blood is life-fluid, and that a bath or immersion 
in blood is healing. This must be the old nomad idea, based on the_/fczW, 
or ransom (see note 4, Chap. IX). The Essenes, together with other Jewish 
sects, seem, on the other hand, to have imbibed, possibly from Iranian-Indian 
sources, the idea that slaughter was a crime, and that sacrifice of animals 
was unpleasing to the powers of light and life. The Essenes were vegetarians. 
It is possible that early Christianity derived its symbolism of a substituted 
victim, and the symbolism of bread for the flesh of the victim and wine 
for its blood, from this school of Jewish-Iranian thought. 

10. Literally, since the baptismal formula is employed. 

11. The immersion of food is not confined to the Mandaeans. A pious 
Shi 'a Moslem has a cistern in his courtyard into which he plunges all food 
before it is cooked, or eaten, so that it may be purified. As the cistern is 
usually stagnant and foul-smelling, the result is not desirable, and modern 

4363 T 

58 Lay Life 

education in Iraq is gradually destroying the custom. The Shafi' practices 
as regards ablutions (the Kurds are almost all Shaft's) are nearer to the 

12. (JB., p. 96) kulman dnarha briha dhiia ushma dhiia la nadkhar C M, 
bmahu dina dainilh. ('If a man smell the perfume of the Life and does 
not pronounce the name of the Life over it, how shall he be judged?') 

13. 4yar-Ziwa. 'Ether-Brilliance' or 'radiant ether'. This certainly 
corresponds to the 'most thin air* of the Essene (Josephus, vol. iv, p. 
155). With the Mandaeans this rare and purer atmosphere is represented 
as interpenetrating the thick air round the earth, and giving it vital qualities, 
just as the heavenly yardna is mixed with earthly yardnia or rivers, giving 
them their life-giving and fertilizing powers. This Ether is personified, and 
is sometimes mentioned as a source of life. 

Wireless holds no surprise for a Mandaean. 'You see', said one to me, 
'it is Ayar Ziwa who brings the sounds.' Cf. the Parsi Ram-Khvastra, the 
angel of rarefied air and the Iranian Vayah (Aether). 


'TF a man has no wife, there will be no Paradise for him 
JLhereafter and no Paradise on earth', Kganzibra remarked 
to me. He himself had two. 'If woman had not been 
created there would be no sun and no moon, no cultiva- 
tion and no fire.' 'Children make a man's name great in 
the next world, and when he is dead, they carry his body 
to the grave and have masiqatha read for him.' 

A man may marry as many wives as his means allow, 
though, actually, pluralists are the exception rather than the 
rule, and many Mandaeans hold monogamy to be better 
than polygamy. I have noticed, however, that most priests 
have had at one time two or more wives. The standard of 
morals is rigid, though an erring woman is not murdered by 
her male relatives as commonly happens in Iraq amongst 
the Moslems. Divorce is not recognized by their religion 
but if a man finds that his wife is careless about her purifica- 
tions or has grave moral faults, he applies to the ganzibra for 
a separation. She may marry no one else, and a widow is not 
expected to remarry, for religion says, 'husband and wife 
are like heaven and earth', or 'like one soul in two bodies'. 
Again, practice is kinder than precept. If a widow, or a 
woman not a virgin, marries, zpaisaq 1 may read a shortened 
ceremony over the pair. But the children of such a union 
are excluded from the priesthood for three generations. 

A marriage is arranged by the parents of the young people, 
and the bride is chosen, not for her wealth, but because she 
comes of a suitable Mandaean family. Marriages between 
cousins are usual, and the paternal cousin is preferred to 
the maternal cousin. The girl should be healthy, especially 
in priestly families, where physical blemishes mean dis- 
qualification from the priesthood, and there must be no 
taint of alien blood, or past fault. As girls are not secluded, 
and have the opportunity of seeing their suitors often in 
the narrow community, it is natural to suppose that they 

60 Marriage 

have a voice in the matter, and that if a proposed union is 
repugnant to the girl it is not insisted upon. 

As soon as the match is agreed upon, the dowry (paid 
over to the bride's father) is settled. To-day, according to 
a priest, an average dowry amongst the well-to-do is from 
twenty dinars to thirty dinars, with a pea's weight of 
saffron. The poor give according to their means. In 
addition to this, the young man gives the girl clothes and 
jewellery. The fees to the ganzibra and priests amount to 
about a dinar (one pound sterling) and upwards. 

I have witnessed several weddings, and will describe 
one, filling in details from others. The couple were poor:, 
the girl's father, who had many daughters, was thankful 
to accept the meagre dowry which was all the suitor could 
offer. The age of the bridegroom, Rashld, was about 
thirty: the bride, Tuweyra bint Sughayyar (Little-Bird 
daughter of Very-Little-One), was twelve. Of course, 
throughout the ceremonies, only their malwasha (astro- 
logical) names, Mhattam bar Mumani and Sharat path 
Mudallal, were employed. Rashld was not rich enough 
to buy gems, he had to be content with a few gauds, and 
the necessary wedding-rings of red agate and green tur- 
quoise. Legend says that when Hibil Ziwa married Zaha- 
ri f il he gave her a robe stitched over with precious stones, 
and placed on her little fingers an emerald and ruby; 'and', 
say my informants, 'the melki, when they take their heavenly 
spouses, deck them with all manner of dazzling gems'. 

The first baptism of the pair must be on a Sunday, and 
often both baptisms, the first and second, are performed 
on the same day. But, weddings being forbidden during 
Panja, the ceremony I am describing was divided into 
two, the first baptism being on the Sunday, which 
was the last day of Panja, and the second on the Tuesday 
following, for the day following Panja is a mbattal day 
and inauspicious. The day fixed for the wedding must 
be astrologically auspicious, and the priest who baptizes 
the pair (he must himself have received two baptisms 
before doing so) must ascertain that the girl is not near 

Marriage 61 

On the Sunday I was sitting in the mandi enclosure 
when the bride approached, heralded by drums, joy-cries, 
and clapping. I went to meet the procession, and the 
crowd parted to allow me to photograph the bride, who 
was supported on each side by a matron. She was en- 
veloped in a white *aba (mantle), and her face was con- 
cealed by a veil of green silk. Walking backwards before 
her, a little girl bore a mirror which reflected the bride. 
The mirror is referred to in the pretty folk-songs intoned 
during the wedding. Shaikh Nejm wrote one down for me : 

Pronunciation Written by him 

Ihai ya rabeytha istarte *hai ya rabitia *startla 

Ad idrl II naura asqtlo D *drla *lw naura sqala 

Qa hazlt bgua Qa hdt bgauh 

Anat ashlar miney^ an ? Anat shafiritia mnal an? 

O my little mistress 
Who earnest the clear mirror for me, 
Didst see in it in sooth 
That I am fairer (than it) ? 

A child carried a lighted lantern by the bride and boys 
walked with her, bearing trays upon which were lighted 
candles, a bowl of water, and a number of green myrtle 
and pomegranate twigs, the latter symbolical of life and 
fertility. This wedding pomp is called the zeffaf. 

The girl and her train entered the ganzibras house for 
an ordeal which must always precede baptism for marriage. 
Two matrons, usually the wife and mother of the ganzibra, 
examine the bride to see if she is a virgin. If she is not, the 
women who wait to hear are silent; if she is, they utter joy- 
cries (halhala). In the case of Little Bird, the verdict was 
that she was intacta, and long trilling cries announced the 
fact. Had she not been, a paisaq 1 would have performed 
the rites if the bridegroom was still willing to marry her. 

The little mud chamber was full to capacity when I 
entered, and dark but for the smoky light of the candles 
and lamp, but the crowd of women, beating drums, snap- 
ping their fingers and shrilling, pushed each other back 

62 Marriage 

to let me see the bride, image-like on the floor, trays of 
greenery and lights beside her and the mirror, bowl of 
water, and lantern at hand. They unveiled her for me to 
see her golden ear-rings set with turquoise, her filigree 
nose-ring, her golden galdda or necklace, her silver anklets, 
and the chains adorning her bosom and hair. 

The bridegroom, in his best clothes, accompanied by 
his male friends, had meantime arrived at the mandi en- 
closure. Each bridegroom is treated as if he were a malka, 
or king, and must have a friend on either hand, who are 
known as the amir (prince) 'of the left', and the 'amir of 
the right'. With the help of his friends, the groom put on 
his rasta^ took his place with other men and boys awaiting 
baptism, went down in his turn into the water, and received 
sacraments with the others. When both baptisms take 
place in one day, the bridegroom receives his two after the 
bride has received hers (baptisms include sacraments), 
so that the priests perform the four baptisms at one time, 
and the sacraments, consequently, are also given to each 
twice in succession. When the bride is baptized, she is 
completely muffled in a black 'aba worn above the rasta, 
and remains a faceless black bundle throughout the two 
baptisms. She may not speak a word throughout, all her 
responses being given silently. She is usually supported 
by two matrons, but one, usually her mother, suffices. 
Sometimes the mother not only goes with her to the water's 
brink but enters it with her, and when the bride has 
emerged, and walked round the toriana and fire and crouches 
low for the sacraments, the mother puts her *aba round 
the girl's figure, to shield her and protect her if it is cold 
from the wind. Both bride and bridegroom, on emerging 
from the water after each baptism, must walk round the 
toriana (i.e. round the clay table upon which is the sacred 
fire-saucer brihi, with the incense) and the fire if there 
is one, moving from south to west, from west to north, 
from north to east, and back to the south of the toriana. 


After the baptisms, both bride and bridegroom are clothed 
in new clean rastas ready for the second part of the ceremony, 
and the bride is censed with incense. 

Marriage 63 

On the occasion I am describing, however, the bride 
was baptized on the first day, and I did not see the second 
baptism of either. Preparations for the second day had 
been made at dawn in the bridegroom's house where the 
ceremonies subsequent to the baptisms took place. The 
ground in the courtyard was swept and cleansed. Sockets 
for the uprights of the marriage-hut (andiruna) are made 
with an iron gazuq (Ar. thabbat), a heavy, blunt iron wedge. 
No spade must be used. All the material used for the hut 
is procured overnight, and the building does not take long. 
The vertical supports (shebab) must be twelve in number. 
Each shebba consists of two reeds only (the qasab, or gasab 
reed, Mandaean qaina d naiza). Each pair -of reeds is 
secured together by a strip of palm-leaf (khusah mal 
nakhlaJi). The latter must not be tied, but the ends are 
twisted tightly together and secured by being pushed in. 
The horizontals (hatar or hatdr\ are also twelve in number. 
The three lower horizontals on the north side of the 
andiruna are cut so as to form an entrance. The roof 
according to the priests should be domed, but though 
I have seen many huts, they have all been flat-roofed. 
The reeds laid across for the roof are unnumbered and 
the roof must have a white killah (mosquito-net) or sheet, 
thrown over it. In and out of the sides of the structure are 
twisted fresh flowers and myrtle, and twigs of every kind 
of tree available, and in addition, bright-coloured rugs 
or embroideries may be fastened round the sides of the hut. 
On the occasion of Little Bird's wedding, the hut was 
adorned with the pink sweet-scented roses called juri, and 
myrtle and young orange-leaves added their perfume to 
that of marigolds and roses. 

But this delightful little bower was not for the bride, 
who at no time even sets foot across its threshold, though 
her proxy does so in due time. Throughout the wedding 
service the bride sat on the bridal mattress in the dark 
nuptial chamber, screened from sight by a canopy of white 
muslin suspended from a sling of red and green wool, and 
reaching the floor. No Mandaean bride uses a bed: the 
mattress laid on the earthen floor is her nuptial couch. 

64 Marriage 

Her mother sat beside her, not relinquishing her 
chaperonage of the bride until the moment when the 
bridegroom came finally to claim his wife. Beside the two 
waiting women, to the north of the bridal bedding and 
canopy, was the tray of myrtle and greenery and flickering 
candles, and the water and lamp which protect the bride 
from the powers of darkness. 

To return to the scene outside. In a corner of the court- 
yard, a reed hut had been set up for men guests, who were 
making merry with snapping fingers, doff (tambourine), 
and coffee, while a dancing boy, with womanish dress 
and long locks, danced, capered, and postured before 

As I entered the courtyard, rose-water was sprinkled 
upon me, and fresh incense cast on the earthen brazier. 
A chair was set for me facing the andiruna so that I could 
witness the ceremonies. From this point of advantage I 
examined the andiruna^ and saw that its floor was covered 
with grass matting (haslr\ and was told that a rug or 
carpet may be used provided it is entirely white, but that 
reed mats (buwart) are never spread in the marriage hut 
because, a priest explained, 'the bariafa (reed mat) is sacred'. 
Eight small toriani (clay tables, see p. 106), not so big as 
the usual toriana of the ritual, and decorated with scratched 
circles, or circles crossed, with a dot in each quarter, were 
put ready within the andiruna. These, they said, are 

especially made for weddings. (_>j (See note 14, 

Chap. VI.) 

The priests arrived two priests, two sjrgandi^ and the 
ganzibra bearing with them the ritual objects and appara- 
tus necessary. Everything used must be first ceremonially 
washed in the river, and the ritual foods, presently 
enumerated in the description of the zidqa brikha, must 
have been prepared by the priests before. arrival. They 
were carried on a large toriana enveloped in a gdada, a 
piece of white, new cotton-cloth about two dhras 2 long; 
while a second gdada about the same size enveloped a 
spouted metal water-jar (ibnq). The ibnq must not be of 

















64 Marriage 

Her mother sat beside her, not relinquishing her 
chaperonage of the bride until the moment when the 
bridegroom came finally to claim his wife. Beside the two 
waiting women, to the north of the bridal bedding and 
canopy, was the tray of myrtle and greenery and flickering 
candles, and the water and lamp which protect the bride 
from the powers of darkness. 

To return to the scene outside. In a corner of the court- 
yard, a reed hut had been set up for men guests, who were 
making merry with snapping fingers, daff (tambourine), 
and coffee, while a dancing boy, with womanish dress 
and long locks, danced, capered, and postured before 

As I entered the courtyard, rose-water was sprinkled 
upon me, and fresh incense cast on the earthen brazier. 
A chair was set for me facing the andiruna so that I could 
witness the ceremonies. From this point of advantage I 
examined the andiruna^ and saw that its floor was covered 
with grass matting (]iasir\ and was told that a rug or 
carpet may be used provided it is entirely white, but that 
reed mats (buwart) are never spread in the marriage hut 
because, a priest explained, 'the bariah (reed mat) is sacred'. 
Eight small toriani (clay tables, see p. 106), not so big as 
the usual toriana of the ritual, and decorated with scratched 


circles, or circles crossed, with a dot in each quarter, were 
put ready within the andiruna. These, they said, are 

especially made for weddings. (--'--) (See note 14, 

Chap. VI.) ^"^^ 

The priests arrived two priests, two sjfigandi, and the 
ganzibra bearing with them the ritual objects and appara- 
tus necessary. Everything used must be first ceremonially 
washed in the river, and the ritual foods, presently 
enumerated in the description of the zidqa brikha^ must 
have been prepared by the priests before arrival. They 
were carried on a large toriana enveloped in a gdada^ a 
piece of white, new cotton-cloth about two dh.ras 2 long; 
while a second gdada about the same size enveloped a 
spouted metal water-jar (ibriq). The ibnq must not be of 



y. S&Sr **' V 

Marriage 65 

clay, and was formerly, they say, of gold and silver ; the 
copper is a substitute. 

The two shgandas (acolytes, apprentice-priests) must 
be under the age of puberty and sons of a priest or head- 
priest (ganzibra}. The first proceeding was that one of 
these brought a basket of the bride's clothes mixed with 
those of the bridegroom. The shganda knocked the basket 
three times against the side-posts of the entrance, whilst 
the ganzibra knocked his margna with it, but above it, 
pronouncing the blessing of the Life upon the pair. The 
basket was then taken back to the house. 

The priests took their stand to the right of the andiruna, 
facing the north, the ganzibra being on the extreme right. 
They consecrated their rasta, piece by piece, in the usual 
rapid gabble, whilst the bridegroom waited beside them. 
As soon as they had finished, the ganzibra inspected the 
rasta of the bridegroom to see that the girdle was properly 
tied, and every piece of the dress correct, and then invested 
him with the skandola (see pp. 3 6-3 8), placing the iron ring 
on the little finger of his right hand, and the iron knife 
through his girdle. The bridegroom must wear these day 
and night until his rebaptism and purification, a ceremony 
which the pair undergo one Sunday at least seven days 
after the first cohabitation. Until this purification, being 
unclean, he and his bride are peculiarly susceptible to the 
attacks of demons and liliths. The end of the ganzibra' 's 
stole (see p. 3 1) is placed in the bridegroom's right hand, 
while the ganzibra pronounces the words : 

'The name of the Life and the name of Manda d Hiia are 
pronounced upon thee, O qabin Shishlam son of .' 

(The priests would not tell me the name of Shishlam 's 
father until I had given my word not to reveal the name. 
There was, however, nothing mysterious about it, since 
it is one of the names of the Great Life.) Qabin, pronounced 
qavin, with a broad Persian #, means 'bridegroom' and 
'Shishlam Rba' is the arch-type of bridegrooms. 3 'All 
melki and *uthri\ they say, 'have female counterparts, or 
spouses, called anani\ and the mystic union of the male 

4363 K 

66 Marriage 

and female principles of life are grossly reflected in human 

A priest was sent by the ganzibra to the bride, to see 
that her rasta was in order, to ask her formally before 
witnesses if she were willing to marry the man, and to put 
on the little finger of each hand the two rings, one set with 
a red stone going on the right hand, and one set with a 
green stone going on the left hand, a custom recalling the 
use of green and red lights on the port and starboard of a 
ship. When the rings were on, the priest poured water 
over her hands from the ibnq, gave her walnuts and raisins 
to eat, and water from the ibrtq to drink. Then, after an 
asutha havilech and 'thy sins are forgiven thee', he rejoined 
the others at the andiruna and repeated what he had done. 

At the threshold of the hut, the upper grindstone of a 
hand-mill had been placed. When the ganzibra^ reading 
from his book (the prayer is given in Q., p. 357) reached 
the prayer qal qala anat, one of the shgandas, standing at 
his right hand, dashed down a clay pot (tunga) which he 
held ready, against the mill-stone. 4 The ganzibra finished 
the prayer, then, the bridegroom still holding the end of 
the stole, and the others following, all entered and took 
their places, sitting on the matting round the sides of the 
andiruna^ the bridegroom on the left of the ganzibra. The 
eight small toriani were now set out on the floor, and 
the big toriana with the tabutjia or sacred food, wrapped 
in the gdada^ was placed to the south of them, before the 
ganzibra. Each little clay table stood upon a clay ring 
(kangana). A basin was set beside the ganzibra who held his 
arms, bared to the elbow over it, while a priest poured 
water from the veiled ibrtq over them. The ganzibra then 
splashed water from the water-jar thrice all over the interior 
of the hut, repeating the formula he had pronounced 
earlier upon the bridegroom. The white cloth that covered 
the big toriana was opened, and a little of each kind of 
sacred food placed on the smaller clay tables. The gan- 
zibra sprinkled them also with salt and sesame. The salt 
is said to represent the strength and fertility of the bride- 
groom. Prayer and blessing were incessant. 





4 ' 





bfl W) 


Marriage 67 

Twenty-six round flat loaves, a little smaller than the 
ordinary flat household loaves, having been brought in on 
a lustrated tray, a careful arrangement of them took place. 
The ganzibra placed three on each toriana^ but between 
one of the smaller clay tables and the big one he put two 
folded together. These loaves, called fatiri, are baked by 
the bridegroom's family, while the ganzibra himself pre- 
pares the sa and brings it with the other sacred foods upon 
the big toriana wrapped in the gdada. The sa> bread in 
the shape of and representing the phallus, is in scroll-form, 
so that scraps of the sacred food can be inserted into it. 

The bride's deputy, known as the ab or father, entered 
the hut, like the others, over the broken potsherds, with 
the greeting Sutha nhuilkhun ('Health be yours'), and 
seated himself with the others. The bridegroom was 
asked if he wished to marry the girl, and was solemnly 
exhorted by the ganzibra to cleanse himself of sin, the 
address beginning, *O Mhattam, bar Mumani'. The 
girl's deputy, the ab, was next addressed by the ganzibra, 
who asked him, as if he were the girl, 'O Sharat path 
Mudallal, do you accept Mhattam bar Mumani?' The 
question, in the case of the bridegroom put and answered 
twice, is asked of the ab three times, the inference being 
that the man is more anxious to marry than the girl. 
Relations of the contracting party sat near the door of 
the hut. 

The Zidqa Brikha for Marriage 

The next step was the ritual meal for the dead, for the 
souls of departed relatives and ancestors are supposed to 
participate in rites which mean the continuance of their 
race, and to bless the young people. (Cf. the Zoroastrian 
invocation of Fravashis at a wedding.) 

The food brought by the priests was : 



Sultana raisins. 


Long almonds (usually called amuza^ but at weddings shughdd). 

68 Marriage 

Fish, previously roasted upon a fire of lustrated reeds. 

A sa y a small round thin flap of bread rolled up like a scroll (see 


A qanlna (small glass bottle) full of hamra. The latter is water 
into which a few white raisins (or white grapes when in season), 
and dates have been placed and kneaded with the fingers. The 
result is a slightly browned fluid. The priest must prepare 
the hamra the same day, or it is useless. 

Kept/ias, small brass drinking-bowls, are also brought, 
and all the foods, together with the qanina and the bowls, 
are ranged around the larger toriana. 

The hand and arm of the bridegroom were purified by 
water poured from the water-jar. He sat with his wet arm 
extended. Into his hand the ganzibra put one end of the 
sa, holding the other end himself, and uttering the words, 
'Say, "The name of the Life and the name of Manda d 
Hiia are pronounced upon me!" O qabin Shishlam!' 
Then the sa was broken between them into two portions, 
one for the bride and the other for the bridegroom, the 
ganzibra laying both on the big toriana and pushing into 
each half of the scroll a tiny pinch of each of the sacred 
foods, a crumb of this, a seed of that, but several almonds 
and raisins. This done, he gave the bridegroom his half, 
stuffed with the sacred food, and loose almonds and raisins, 
and the bridegroom, putting it all into his mouth, ate it 
at a mouthful. It was the bride's turn next. The ab or 
bride's deputy, taking up the water-jar, spread a corner of 
the white cloth which covered it over the palm of his right 
hand, and received in it, so veiled, the bride's portion of 
the sa and holy foods. Both the aVs hands being full, the 
ganzibra was obliged to put the two loaves which had been 
placed earlier between the big toriana and a smaller neigh- 
bour, underneath the former's right arm-pit. The ab then 
left the andiruna^ and crossing the courtyard into the 
house he dropped the loaves at the threshold of the nuptial 
chamber before entering it. Going within, he bade the 
bride put her bared hand and arm outside the canopy, 
poured water over them from the jar, and gave her the 




too <L 
-rj " 


J-H <U 





Marriage 69 

other half sa to eat, reserving some raisins to be eaten after 
the rest, saying to her (this time in the role of the bride- 
groom), 'Eat this, and do not eat except from me'. The 
meaning of this phrase is that the bridegroom alone is 
henceforth responsible for his wife's keep, and also that he 
commands her fidelity. 

As soon as the ab left the andiruna^ those in the hut 
began to eat some of the food on the tables, a little being 
given to relatives outside. Dried petals and salt were 
thrown over the food. Whatever is left at the end of the 
ceremony is thrown into the river. 

Various charming pieces of symbolism followed. In 
token of the wife's cleanliness, two young boys brought 
soap, a comb, and shnan (an alkaline plant used for wash- 
ing clothes called ramitfi before preparation) to the gan- 
zibra, who waved them thrice over the tables, saying, 
'Lovely is thy perfume, O wholesome goodness/' (hal tab). 
Three pieces of silver were placed in the bridegroom's 
hand to bring him future prosperity, and, for the second 
time, a basket of clothes, male and female, belonging to 
the young couple was brought in, the bride's green veil, 
now at last discarded, being spread over the top. (Amongst 
the clothes there must also be a green dress, the gift of the 
bridegroom.) The basket was set down before the gan- 
zibra and bridegroom, and the former prayed three prayers 5 
over it. (If the bridegroom is a priest, nine prayers are 
read.) The green veil was removed and bound round the 
bridegroom's waist. 

The latter then seated himself on a clay ring (kangana\ 
with his back to the ganzibra, and was invested with the 
myrtle wreath. The bridal myrtle wreath is unlike the 
usual klila in that it is intertwisted with white threads from 
a girdle, and both bride and groom at the end of the 
ceremonies do not throw them into the river, as after 
baptism, but put them carefully away, and keep them 
always. Before the ganzibra placed the wreath upon the 
bridegroom's head, he smeared it with saffron, which he 
had mixed with a little water in the palm of his hand. 

The ab, who had returned from the bride, sat on another 


kangana facing the bridegroom, so that while he, the 
representative of the bride, faced south, the bridegroom 
faced north. A white cloth was placed over the right hand 
of the bridegroom (who held the stole of the ganzi&ra with 
his left), and into his veiled right, the ab placed a kepfha. 
In his own right hand, veiled beneath the other end of the 
gdada, the ab held the small bottle of hamra, ready to pour 
into the bridegroom's bowl. 

Theganzibra read the 'hamra prayers', seven in number, 
and seven times during the reading bade the ab 'Give him 
to drink!' Each time the ab poured a little hamra into the 
bowl, and the bridegroom drank. 

As soon as the hamra prayers were ended, the bystanders 
began to clap rhythmically, singing one of the marriage 
songs, Ta talai ziwa. 6 

The priests, the ab, and the bridegroom, the latter still 
holding the end of the ganzibra's stole, now left the hut 
and approached the threshold of the bridal chamber. Here 
the lower stone of the hand-mill had been placed, and a 
second clay pot was broken against it by the shganda before 
the party entered. The bridegroom seated himself on the 
floor against the muslin canopy, back to back with the 
bride. 7 After he had read some prayers, the ganzibra 
approached the pair and knocked the backs of their heads 
lightly together three times, while some of the spectators 
in the room, regardless of the prayers being recited, danced 
and sang or uttered joy-cries. 

The bride's mother still sat with her daughter on the 
nuptial mattress. 

The bride was next invested with her myrtle crown 
smeared with saffron, and then the ab with the gdada 
spread over his right hand and hers, gave the girl hamra 
to drink seven times. 8 Dried rose-petals, powdered sugar, 
and a few almonds were flung over the canopy, and incense 
scattered on the clay brazier, while the women renewed 
their joy-cries. 

The ganzibra, his gaze fixed on his book, continued to 
read, or rather intone, some of the wedding songs from 
the Qulasta. Bystanders translated one for me, and as I 

Marriage 7 1 

have not the text, I must rely on their explanation. The 
bride in the song is supposed to be sitting in the shade of 
a palm-tree and fanning her lord. 'If he is asleep, I will 
not wake him!' it ends. These wedding songs are rhyth- 
mical, written in chanty form, and the language approaches 
the ratna. 

The ganzibra exhorted the bridegroom to protect his 
wife, not to leave her in want, and to rear their children 
in the true faith. 

Then the bridegroom and priests left the nuptial 
chamber, the former still holding the ganzibra^ 's stole, and 
re-entered the hut, where the final reading continued over 
the head of the bridegroom, who had resumed his uncom- 
fortable seat on the clay ring. Finally, the ganzibra waved 
his margna three times over the head of the bridegroom 
(who from that moment became unclean, and relinquished 
his hold of the stole), and the wedding was over. 

The bridegroom may not approach his wife until an 
hour astrologically propitious. The ganzibra makes cal- 
culations from the horoscopes of both, and should the 
resulting hour be inconvenient calculations are made for 
the following six hours. 

The consummation of the marriage renders both 'un- 
touchable' and the bride, like the woman in childbed, must 
stay apart. She may not issue from the house until both 
go out for their baptism, together with whatever utensils 
or dishes they may have touched. A zidqa brikha must be 
performed in the name of the young pair as soon as their 
purification is complete. 

Details and ritual vary slightly in all the weddings I 
have seen, but the above account describes all the main 
features essential to the ceremony. 


1 . A paisaq is a priest debarred from all priestly duties except that of 
performing marriage rites over women no longer virgin. 

2. The dhra is the length of the arm from elbow to finger-tips. For the 
use of the gdada compared to the Parsi paiwand see p. 39, note 2. In 

72 Marriage 

general the gdada is a white cloth used to isolate pollution or protect from 

3. Sktshlam Rba. See note 2, Chap. III. His feast is a vegetation feast, 
connected with fertility rites. His spouse is Izlat. 

4. Cf. the Jewish breaking of the nuptial cup. 

5. Prayers (I give only the first line of each): 

For a layman: Manda qran^siria hathlmtf (called the little 'Isiri 
hathim?}, and *sirh kathimh (called the big 'Isiri hathimi?}. 

For a priest: 

Bshma d hiia bit misjiqal aitiia, &c. 

Mis_hqal ainia, &c. 

* stria yama, &c. 

Gimra ana gimira, &c. 

Z,ha ifthazha, &c. 

Esjima d hiia kth *hablia, &c. 

Bs_hma e[ hiia tfusar hiia, 8cc. 

'sirk hathimhj &c. 

6. This song is quoted in Q., p. 245. 

7. At a Parsi wedding, a cloth curtain is held between bride and bride- 
groom. This custom is nearer the Mandaean than that of the Jewish 
canopy held over both bride and bridegroom. 

8. The hamra (fruit juice and water) is an intensified fertility symbol. 
It is possible that the wine at the Cana marriage feast (John ii. 310) 
had a similar ritual meaning. 

The Zoroastrians use wine at weddings. 'An allusion to wine in the 
recital of the blessings of the marriage ceremony of the Ashivad shows that 
the wine used in the old Parsee books was not the wine that intoxicated'. 
(JJM., p. 395). 



IN the Ginza there are no less than seven accounts of the 
Creation, viz. in Fragments i, 2, 3, 10, 13, 15, and 18, 
and these are far from agreeing. The Supreme Being is 
named variously Malka d Nhura (King of Light), Mara 
d Rabutha (Lord of Greatness), Mana Rba (The Great 
Soul) 1 from whom the First Life and then the Second Life 
proceed in the fifteenth fragment the Great Life seems 
to precede the Mana, Pira Rba (the Great Fruit), &c. 
Whether these are epithets or separate conceptions is 
open to debate. In the fifteenth fragment the Life is 
shown in the World of Light and produces, first Water; 
from Water, Radiance (Ziwa)', from Radiance, Light; 
and from Light, ^uthrif the spirits whose function it is 
to govern natural phenomena. 

Similarly, there are assistants or agents in the work of 
Creation, Hibil Ziwa, 3 Abathur, 4 and Pthahil. 5 Their 
roles and characters vary. In Fragment i Gabriel is the 
sole agent. In 2, Hibil Ziwa forms the World of Light 
but Pthahil does the actual work of creating the physical 
universe. In 3 Pthahil is identified with Gabriel and makes 
the world with the help of the planets but cannot furnish 
man with a soul. Adakas Ziwa, or Adam Kasia, or Manda 
d Hiia provide a soul for Adam. In 10 Pthahil is again the 
actual creator (here he is called 'son of Manda d Hiia'), 
and Abathur fetches the soul (mana kasia} for Adam because 
Pthahil's creature cannot stand upright. In 13 (as in the 
Diwan Abathur, which also has a creation story) Abathur 
orders Pthahil to create the world, but when the latter is 
unsuccessful, an appeal to Hibil Ziwa completes the task. 
Here Abathur and Hibil Ziwa are treated as separate 
beings. In Fragment 1 5 none of these personages appear 
(see above). 

What modern Mandaeans make of this confusion will 

4363 L 

74 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

be seen in the Legends, pp. 251 ff. Present ideas will 
be seen to be equally confused, especially about Adam and 
his relations with his light-double, Adam Kasia. 

Mandaean estimates as to the age of the world and 
world-periods are also contradictory. According to one 
account, the melki measured the existence of the world into 
epochs, or ages. 'From Adam to the end of the world is 
480,000 years/ Each of these epochs is governed bya sign 
of the Zodiac. To Umbara, a period of twelve thousand 
years was assigned; to Taura, eleven thousand; to Selmi 
(Silmia), ten thousand, and so on. 6 

The Signs of the Zodiac and their numerical values are 
as follows: 

Umbara (New Year), Lamb or Ram 

Taura, Bull .... 

Silmia, Scales (Gemini) 

Sartana, Crab .... 

Aria, Lion .... 

Shumbulta, Ear of Corn 

Qaina, Reed .... 

Arqba (pron. Arqwa), Scorpion 

Hatia, Mare .... 

Gadia, Kid or Goat 

Daula, Camel (or bucket ?) 

Nuna, Fish .... 











Each day is governed by a planet. The day is divided 
into two parts of twelve, twelve day-hours and twelve 
night-hours. Certain melki also govern the days, and hence 
have a planetary character, for instance, Sunday, which 
is governed by Shamish, is also associated with the per- 
sonified Habshaba, 7 First-Day-of-the-Week, a malka who 
is sometimes identified with other saviour-spirits. He 

'takes purified souls in his ship to Awathur and to the World of 
Light. The gate of the World of Light is ajar on this day and 
Hoshaba (Habshaba) takes the souls by means of electricity into 
the midst of the world of light.' 

I was told that 'Hoshaba' descends into Mataratha 
(Purgatories) on Sunday, returning with seven Mandaean 
souls to the world of light. 

Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 75 

'The revolving wheels of light whirl more swiftly on this day, 
thus assisting the souls in their ascent.' 

The story is based on the prayer for Sunday (Q., p. 
184), uqarqil sMbqh^ &c., the qarqil taken as meaning 
revolution of a wheel. 

Writings preserved by the priests enumerate the planet- 
ary aspects not only day by day but hour by hour, so that 
life may be conducted successfully. To quote from one: 

'The Day of Habshaba. The First Hour is of Shamish. Favour- 
able (shapir) for building a new house, going on the road, putting 
on a new garment, eating bread, approaching kings and governors, 
drinking wine, and buying and selling. The Second Hour is of 
Libat (Venus). Sit in thy own city. Favourable for being with thy 
wife, eating new bread, riding horses, visiting physicians,' &c. 

Not every hour of Sunday is good, for instance, on the 
sixth hour of Sunday night a traveller is likely to fall 
amongst thieves; for Nirigh. (Mars) governs this hour, 
although the general aspect of the day is sunny. 

Monday (Trin Habshaba) is governed by Sin ; Tuesday 
(Thlatha Habshaba) by Nirigh; Wednesday (Arba Hab- 
shaba) by 'Nbu; and Thursday (Hamsha Habshaba) by 
Bil (Bel), also by Melka Ziwa 'from the morning of Thurs- 
day till Friday noon, when Liwet has power'. Friday 
(Yuma d Rahatia) is the day of Libat, and Yuma d Shafta 
or Saturday is the day of Kiwan. Friday afternoon and 
night are supposed to be unlucky and under the general 
influence of the King of Darkness. 

Although, throughout the Ginza Rba, the planets are 
represented as being harmful to mankind, modern Man- 
daean conception and magic use attribute beneficence to 
some and maleficence to others. 8 

The sun, Shamish, 9 who, like other planetary spirits, 
rides across the firmament in his boat (see Figs. 2, 3 and 4 
on pp. 77, 78 and 79) is friendly. That he is regarded as a 
power for good rather than evil is often apparent in Man- 
daean writings. Moreover, the Mandaeans have a solar 
year, solar numbers are sacred, and the sun disk is employed 
in the alphabet (see Chap. XIV). He seems to equate with 

7 6 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

Yawar Ziwa, prayers to whom have a very solar character. 
Tradition assigns him a crew of ten light-' uthri, though in 
the Diwan Abathur picture there are only four figures 
beside Shamish in the sun-boat. The names of the crew are 
differently given by Mandaeans, and I suspect that they 
were originally twelve and represented the twelve light- 
hours. A priest told me they were 'Zuhair and Zahrun, 
Buhair and Bahrun, Tar and Tarwan, Ar and Sivyan, Rawia 
and Talia'. Kganzibra was doubtful, but his list was, 'Sam 
Ziwa, Adonai bar Shamish, Liwet (Libat) whose other 
names are Simat Hiia, Kanat Izlat, Anhar, Samra d Izpar, 
and Gimra Bellur Dakia; Ruha and Samandri f il'. Below, 
I quote a yalufa of learned priestly family. The light of 
Shamish's banner, he said, came from the four 'uthri of 
the Polar Star : 

'From these four come the strength and light of Shamish. Thus 
the sun gets its light and strength from Melka Ziwa. Just as a 
mirror reflects a face, it reflects Melka Ziwa. Shamish is lord of all 
the melki of the material world. The pure soul can hear the prayer 
of Shamish. He prays thrice a day, 300 butha in all, whilst the 
northern stars pray 1 2 butha and the other stars seven daily. 

'Shamish has with him ten spirits ('uthri} of power and brightness. 
These ten 'uthri see what everyone in the world is about nothing 
is hid from them. With Shamish in his boat are three others, one 
of the principle of darkness and two light melki, Sam Mana and 
Ismira (Smira). Were one to see clearly and the Nasorai are able 
to see thus sometimes one would behold in the sun-boat the flam- 
ing dravsha (drabsha, banner), upon which are, as it were, three 
wheels of light. The melka of darkness who is with the sun is 
responsible for the evil sometimes done by the sun's rays. He is 
called Adonai. From his eyes dart rays which sear and burn, and 
his gaze causes "cupboards of air" (i.e. whirlwinds). 

'But the flaming standard of Shamish, his dravsha, throws out 
beneficent rays and gives forth light and life and electricity. The 
melka of darkness sometimes succeeds in bringing something before 
the dravsha, so causing an eclipse. Sam Mana and Ismira counter- 
act the evil effects of the efforts of the Darkness. 

'The ten 'uthri who are with the sun are called Zuhair, Zahrun, 
Buhair, Bahrun, Sar, Sarwan, Tar and Tarwan, Rabia and Talia. 
These ten do not work only with Shamish but they come to Sin. 

78 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy -days 

On the 1 4th night of the moon they are all with Sin. The light 
they give is the radiancy of Melka d Anhura, not of Melka Ziwa, 
whose light is like that of the sun above the horizon the noonday. 
They come to him (Sin) gradually and leave him gradually, and 
when he is without them, Melka d Hshukha (King of Darkness) 
and the shiviahi have power to work them mischief.' 

Contemporary drawing 


FIG. 3. 

A. The crew often *uthri in the sun-boat 

B. Light symbol in the dravsha (drabsjia) 

C. Dravsha (drabsha) of Shamish 

Left-hand top: The ark or boat of Shamish, with the ten 'uthrts. Shamish 
holds the mast, or dravsha pole. Upon this banner, Hirmiz says, 'wheels 
of light appear'. See B. C represents the dravsha itself. Drabsjia (plu. 
drabshia) means 'ray, beam', (something which streams forth?) and the 
Persian drafsjm (a 'flag' or 'standard') may have become associated with the 
word by the Mandaeans. 

Shaikh Dukhayil, describing the sun-boat, said that the dravsjm was 
'flaming like letrik wires'. He continued 'the light of the sun comes from 
the drafsha and is of Alma d Anhura. At the end of the world, the planet 
will be burnt up with the rest of the material world. The heat and cold ( !) 
of the sun are of the Darkness. The sun lights four of the seven worlds, the 
other three being illuminated by the world of light.' 

'Shamish has a female aspect, not a spouse, but a dmutha (com- 
plement, likeness). She is the mother of all the melki, is in likeness 
female rather than male, and, in my thought, the sun is in this form 
(i.e. a female form) of Malka Ziwa's power, and the universe 
proceeds from her. Her name is Simat Hiia (pronounced Haiy or 
Hei), Treasure of Life.' (See p. 27.) 

The moon (Sin) appears to be regarded as a sinister in- 
fluence. The informant quoted above says : 

'The face of Sin, the Moon, is like a cat, animal-like and black, 

Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy -days 79 

whilst the face of Shamish is like a wheel of light' (he drew a 
swastika). 'With Sin in the moon-ship is the King of Darkness 
also. He (Melka d Hshukha) pulls men towards the earthly and 
gross, towards the dark and evil. He does this because he must, 
though he was created by and serves God, for there must be dark- 
ness and light and day and night. He is ordered to this by the Lord 
of Greatness, who has a myriad names and created all beings, visible 
and invisible, of the created worlds. 

'The light-#Z/yz in the moon prevent Sin and the King of Dark- 
ness from bemusing the children of men. Under the influence of 

FIG. 4. The Moon-Ship 
The distorted figure on the right of the mast is Sin 

those two, men do deeds of madness and shame that they would not 
wish to perform by day; and without the counteracting influence 
of the ten, men's moral sense would disappear. But Melka d 
Hshukha cannot harm a man who rules himself and has a firm 
faith. A man must not doubt: his faith and his purity must be 
strong, for then he sees melki and can communicate with Shamish. 
He must not say "I fear there are not", he must say, "There are!" 
If a man says, "There is no God, no spirits", he is entirely in the 
power of the King of Darkness and it is harmful even to sit with 
such a one.' 

In the Diwan Abathur the stern of the moon-boat is 
decorated with leafy twigs (see above, Fig. 4), but Sin, 
who is considered responsible for abortions and de- 
formities (see Legend XIII), is a malformed figure. 

Venus, Libat, or Dilbat, is more favourably regarded. 
The form of the name is curious. The Sumero-Babylonian 
form Dil-bat had, Pallis suggests (Mandaean Studies, p. 36), 
long been obsolete at the period when the Mandaean 

8o Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

scriptures were collected. He thinks that scribes, copying 
from earlier documents, took dfor the genitive particle and 
omitted it as unnecessary. In the Ginza (GR. 447) occurs 
a passage describing a matarta in which are found those 
who go into the house of Tammuz (Adonis), sit there 
twenty-eight days, slaughter sheep, mix bowls and make 
cakes, 'mourning in the house of Dilbat'. Other references 
in the Ginza are to 'Dlibat'. 

The small planetary boat directly behind that of Shamish 
in the Diwan Abathur illustrations is said to belong to 
Libat, and one of the figures above it is labelled, 'This is the 
likeness of Libat: "Sitting-on-the-mountain-of-Shamish" 
is her name: seven names she has'. Libat is often invoked 
in sorcery. Her peculiar function is either to help in 
matters of love and generation or to give information about 
the unknown. Owing to her association with Zahri'il, 
spouse of Hibil Ziwa and protectress of women in child- 
birth, she is far from being regarded with aversion. A 
yaluja said: 

'Those who wish to consult _Liwet, take an istikan (tea-glass) and 
reverse it upon a slab of marBIeTHTwo people place their fingers 
upon the glass, one of them being a person who converses with the 
other world. Letters are placed round in a circle and the glass in 
the middle, and the glass moves about and touches letters, spelling 
out answers to questions put to it. This is called 'i/m Liwet. 

'Li wet controls inventions. The melka of this planet is female and 
beautiful. I have heard that there are people who put a boy or a virgin 
outside the town on Sundays in a place set apart for her veneration, 
and she descends into the boy or girl and instructs them so that they 
give information about many matters.' (See also Legend XII.) 

Magic dealings with her are frowned on by orthodoxy, 
but it was a priest who had copied a Libat incantation in 
my possession. The goddess is asked 'to make refulgent 
and beautiful my face' so that the supplicant and his 
beloved may 'glow with desire', 'their hearts are clothed 
with love', 'glowing love and blind and glowing desire' is 
kindled in them. 'They shall not eat or drink until they 
possess each other.' 

Mars (Nirigh) is the 'Lord of Clouds and Thunder, 




> i 
4 ' 


Cosmogony r , Astrology, and Holy-days 8 1 

who makes rain and draws, together with Shamish, water 
from earth and sky'. The name is derived from Nirg-al 
the Babylonian deity. 10 Pallis (Mandaean Studies, p. 36) 
suggests that the scribes suppressed the al or el as this 
suffix is usually given to beings of divine origin. Man- 
daeans, perhaps on account of his warlike and quarrel- 
some character, look on him as the protector of Islam. 

Jupiter (Bil or Bel) is rarely mentioned except in exor- 
cisms of disease-demons, such as the Pishra d Ainia. It is 
probable that his functions were gradually absorbed by 
such beings as Yawar Ziwa, Hibil Ziwa, and Malka Ziwa. 
Mercury ( c Nbu, Enwp), 'lord of writing and books', 
'lord of wisdom and~Tcnowledge', and Saturn (Kiwan), 
appear little in magic except in exorcism rolls. Qmahia 
written in 'Nbu's name cure madness. 

Every hour and every month has also its Zodiacal burj 
or house, the day being divided, as is said above, into two 
parts of twelve, twelve light hours and twelve dark hours. 
This brings me to the question of names, which are based 
on the numerical value of the signs of the Zodiac as given 
on page 74. Every Mandaean has two names, his Mal- 
washa, or Zodiacal name, and his laqab or worldly name. 
The latter is usually a Muhammadan name and is used for 
all lay purposes, the former is his real and spiritual name 
and is used on all religious and magic occasions. This 
spiritual name is linked with that of the mother instead of 
the father, suggesting some period at which paternity was 
attributed to some ancestor on the female side, or a god. 
The religious name is of great importance, for if a man 
is drowned or burnt and the body not found, a man as like 
him in circumstance as possible, and bearing a name fall- 
ing under the same astrological influences, must imper- 
sonate him at the reading of the zidqa brikha, a ritual meal 
which atones for the lack of death rites and burial. A 
person chosen as sponsor for a child unable to reply for 
itself at baptism should have astrological conditions similar 
to those of the child, and his name will, therefore, fall into 
the same category of names. 

Malwasha names have each an arbitrary numerical 

4363 M 

82 Cosmogony ', Astrology, and Holy-days 

value. Letters themselves have no numerical value as in 
Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic, according to the priests, who 
keep lists of these names and suggest one to the parents 
when their calculations have been made. The names are 
not always drawn from religious characters or from the 
holy books and amongst Malwasha appellations are such 
names as Yasman (Jessamine). I confess that I have been 
unable to discover why these names are selected, or why 
they have numerical values. 

When an infant is to be named, the priest takes the 
Zodiacal sign of the month in which its birth occurred, 
counts from it round the Zodiacal circle, and calculates 
from it the sign of the hour. The sign of the day does not 
matter. From the numerical value which results, they 
subtract the value of the mother's name. 

For instance, a male child is born at 1 1 a.m. in Awwal 
Gita, 1935, on February 4th. His mother's name is 
Sharat (numerical value 2). The sign for Awwal Gita is 
Aria. Starting at Aria on the circle but not counting it 
in, eleven hours gives us Sartana (numerical value 4). 
Two (for the mother's name) deducted from four, leaves 
two. The name selected for the child, therefore, is Zahrun, 
one of the names with a numerical value of two. Thus the 
infant's full Malwasha is Zahrun bar Sharat, which adds 
up to four, the number of the Zodiacal sign Sartana. 

For all astrological information the priests consult the 
astrological codex Sfar Malwasha, the 'Book of the Zodiac'. 
Mandaeans say that Hibil Ziwa gave Adam Paghra the 
Sfar Malwasha so that he might be able to foresee coming 
events in its pages. 

Foreknowledge of coming events is claimed, not only 
by the priests who scan omens in the sky, clouds, birds, 
and interpret such events as eclipses (a recent eclipse was 
said to be 'blood on the moon' and a portent of war or 
massacre), but as a natural gift of clairvoyance peculiar to 
some priestly families. My old friend Hirmiz bar Anhar 
claims that both he and his wife (a cousin) have this 
hereditary gift, and has given me several instances of 
second sight and premonition in their family. 

Cosmogony ', Astrology r , # W Holy-days 8 3 

Most of the leading events in a Mandaean's life are 
decided by recourse to the priests, who tell him the astro- 
logically auspicious day on which to marry, or send his 
child to school, undertake a new enterprise, or set out on 
a journey. In cases of illness, cures and herbs fall under 
the influence, of certain planets and certain signs of the 
Zodiac, and a man should take only the medicament or 
cure which belongs to the sign under which he fell ill, i.e. 
the hour he sickened. In general the Subba refuse to 
drink any medicine, even when they have gone to a 
European doctor, though they have faith in ointments and 
do not object to subcutaneous injections. The community 
presents problems to the health authorities. During a 
recent cholera epidemic a Government order forbad 
people to drink anything but chlorinated water from the 
town supply. It was impossible to enforce this order as 
far as the Subba were concerned, for the only water that 
they regard as 'living' is water from the yardna^ i.e. from 
a running river or spring, and water boiled or chlorinated 
has lost its 'life', so they will not drink it. 

If a man falls sick on the 2 1 st day of any month he has 
little hope of recovery, for that is a day on which the 
shiviahia (i.e. spirits of evil, see p. 254) have power. The 
1 5th of a month is also inauspicious, and many Subba wear 
a special qmaha called 'Shalhafta d Mahra' (DC, 17) to 
protect them against sickness on this day. A Subbi told 
me that on these two days 

'it is better for a man to remain in his house and not to undertake 
any business. Clothes should not be bought, no journey should be 
begun and it is dangerous to embark either on a ship or a new 
enterprise. Should a man fall sick on either of these two days, he is 
likely to die unless his nose bleeds. If this happens, he will recover; 
but it must bleed of itself, and not be induced artificially. He must 
keep pure, for purification protects a man: it makes him white and 
clothes him in light so that the shiviahi cannot approach him.' 

The Mandaean year 11 is divided into twelve months of 
thirty days each, with five intercalary days named Par- 
wanaia (pronounced sometimes Paranoia), or Panja, which 
fall between the 3Oth day of Shumbulta and the ist day of 

84 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

Qaina. These twelve months are redivided into four 
seasonal divisions: Sitwa (winter), Abhar (spring), Gita 
(Geyta) (summer), and Paiz (summer) which have lost 
connexion with the actual seasonal changes of hot and cold 

Each season is subdivided into three: First, Middle, 
and Last (Awwal, Misai, and Akhir or Khir). The twelve 
months are given other names also : Nisan, Ayar, Siwan, 
&c., but these do not correspond in season to their Jewish 
or Turkish namesakes. 

1st month 



5 th 







1 2th 



Awwal Sitwa 
(or Shetwa) 
Misai Sitwa 
Akhir Sitwa 

Awwal Abhar 
Misai Abhar 
Akhir Abhar 
Awwal Gita 

Misai Gita 

Akhir Gita 
Awwal Paiz 
Misai Paiz 
Akhir Paiz 

Qam Daula Shabat 

Qam Nuna 
Qam Umbara 

Qam Taura 
Qam Silmia 

Qam Sartana 

Qam Arya 
Qam Shumbulta 
Qam Qaina 
Qam Arqba 
Qam Hatia 
Qam Gadia 











Tabit (Tabith) 

Each year is named after the day with which it began, 
e.g. the Year of Habshaba, the Year of Sunday; or Year 
of Rahatia, Year of Friday. For instance, I write on 
January 29th, 1935, which, according to Mandaeans, is 
the 25th of Sartana or Tammuz, in the Akhir Abhar, the 
sixth month of the year of Arba Habshaba, which is almost 
as if one said, 'the 2^th of the Crab or August in the last of 
Spring, the 6th month of the year of Wednesday'. It 
will be seen that the calendar is a somewhat confusing 

The New Year's Day of the present Mandaean year, 
therefore, fell on August 8th, 1935, in the midst of the 
summer heat, Qam Daula the First of Winter. Disloca- 
tion in times and seasons is apparent, the reason being 
obviously that the calendar does not make allowance for 

Cosmogony^ Astrology^ and Holy -days 85 

the quarter day which has to be included to make the 
solar year correspond with the seasons. 12 

The name given to the New Year's Feast is Dihba Rba 
(Dehwa Rabba). Lidzbarski thinks the word dihba had an 
original meaning of 'slaughter', but Mandaean priests 
derive the words from dahba (zahba) 'gold', since slaughter 
is forbidden on most feast days, but particularly at the New 
Year. The Mandaeans also use the Persian 'Nauruz Rba' 
and this is the name given to the solemn festival in Alf 
Trisar Shiala. New Year's Eve is called 'Kanshia uZahla'. 13 
On this day sheep and chickens are slaughtered to provide 
a store of food, bread is cooked and brought into the 
house, kleycha (small festival cakes marked with a cross) 14 
are prepared, dates and vegetables receive careful ablution 
and are stored within doors where they can suffer no 
pollution, and water is drawn in pots enough for thirty- 
six hours and covered in the house. All day, till evening 
(paina d Dihba Rba\ the priests baptize the faithful. 
Cattle and poultry must be shut up before sunset and en- 
trusted to the care of Gentile neighbours or servants, for, 
during the ensuing thirty-six hours they may not be 
touched or milked by a Mandaean. Five minutes before 
the sun disappears, every man, woman, and child performs 
the tamasha (threefold ritual immersion) and the women 
raise joy-cries. Then all retire into the house, where they 
must remain without going outside, no matter for what 
purpose, for the next thirty-six hours, i.e. the night before 
the New Year, the first day of the New Year, called the 
Day-of-Lacking, and the night which follows it. Laxer 
spirits go out of the house to attend to a call of nature, but 
priests say that this is highly dangerous and arrangements 
are made within the house for the time. Vigil must be 
kept during the whole thirty-six hours : not an eye must be 
closed, though the sleep of children is excused because not 
preventable. On New Year's Day, or The-Day-of-Lacking, 
no religious ceremony can take place. If a man chances to 
die during the thirty-six hours, he may not be buried. He 
is washed with water from the household store and clothed 
with his death-r^/^, and when he has breathed his last he 

86 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

is covered with a white cloth and left as he is, until the dawn 
of the second day of the New Year, when he can be buried 
with the usual ceremonies. It is considered a disaster for 
the soul of the dead to have passed at such a time, and 
when Parwanaia (or Panja) comes,z/V<^ brikha and masiqta 
must be performed over a substitute (see Chap. XII). 

During this vigil the priests are not idle. They consult 
the Sfar Malwasha and make predictions about the New 
Year, its good or bad weather, its chances of disaster or 
good fortune. Laymen keep themselves awake by playing 
games and reciting stories. If a beast, bird, reptile, or large 
insect (such as a hornet) touches food or drink it cannot 
be consumed ; and if a person is touched by beaat, bird, 
reptile, large insect, or Gentile, he is seriously polluted and 
must purify himself later by baptisms. Should he be 
bitten by a dog or reptile, or stung by a bee or hornet, he 
incurs sixty baptisms. Flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and lice 
are not, however, counted, as they are regarded as un- 
avoidable and natural conditions. It is possible that in 
earlier times there were regulations about these lesser 
evils, for I was told that the extremely pious sometimes 
retired for the period into a reed-hut covered entirely by 
mosquito-netting (see Book II, XIV). 

The reason given for these precautions against pollution 
is this : New Year's Day commemorates the Creation, for 
Mana Rba Kabira, the Great Mana, the Lord of Great- 
ness, completed his work of creation on this day. There- 
fore, all the spirits of light, wherever they may be, leave 
their posts and go to visit him and pay their compliments. 
Abathur 'closes his door', Nidbai and Shilmai forsake 
their guardianship of the running waters; Hibil, Shitil, 
and 'Anush depart; the dwellers in Mshunia Kushta 
with Adam Kasia at their head and their guardian spirit 
Shishlam Rba (the dmutjia of Hibil Ziwa) all rise into 
the infinite worlds of light. Swiftly as these creatures of 
light move, the long journey takes them twelve hours. 
They reach their goal at the dawn of the New Year and 
spend that day in the bliss of contemplating perfection. 
The journey back covers the next night. 

Cosmogony , Astrology, and Holy-days 87 

But what of the world thus left undefended? The 
powers of evil and death are unrestrained. Even the 
waters of river or spring are dangerous and must not be 
approached or touched. If a man but dips his hand into 
the river, he is 'cursed with the curse of Shishlam Rba'. 
Trees, usually magically beneficent, become harmful. 
People wrap matting round trees growing in their com- 
pounds lest children should touch them inadvertently. In 
short, Mandaeans take care to protect themselves from 
pollution because if pollution endangered them physically 
and spiritually while the natri or guardian spirits were 
present, it has thousandfold power to harm them during 
their absence. 

On the second day of the year all the Mandaeans come 
out, visit each other, feast, and make merry. The first 
visit is to the ganzibra, who tells them the portents for the 
year. Individual forecasts of good or bad fortune may be 
obtained from the priests, 15 and if unfavourable the in- 
quirer is advised to order the writing of a qmaha or zrazfa. 
It is a time of rejoicing, but no baptisms, slaughterings, or 
any other religious ceremony except funerals and these 
must be supplemented at Panja as said above may be 
performed until the fourteenth day and the night which 
follows it are over. (The Mandaeans count the twenty- 
four hours of a day and night as beginning at dawn, i.e. 
Tuesday is followed by Tuesday night: 'the night of 
Tuesday' to an Arab, on the contrary, means the night 
preceding Tuesday.) 

The 6th day of the first month is called Nauruz Zota 
or Little New Year, and this, and the 7th day, are called 
the Dehva d Shishlam Rba, or, in one of the holy books, 
the Dihba d Shushian. The night between these two days 
is called 'the night of power', and then, if a man is pious, the 
Gate of Abathur is opened to him in a vision and he obtains 
whatever he may ask. As, however, if he is really pious 
he does not ask worldly favours but freedom from sin and 
spiritual gifts, the result is not immediately seen. All 
lights and fires must be extinguished for this feast and 
food is distributed to the poor. The Mandaean priests 

8 8 Cosmogony ', Astrology ', and Holy-days 

visit their flocks and hang on the lintel of every house a 
wreath of willow and myrtle, which remains there till the 
next year and is thought to protect the inmates from harm. 
For this service the priests receive a small fee. At the 
hanging, they recite this prayer : 

Bshma d hiia rbia nhar gufnia bgu mia utqaiam kablria byardna 
nighdia anatun rauzia shganda lhakha althtlkhun yahbmalkhun 7 
*uthrta saghia gadltlkhun umathnalkhun bbab d hilbuma kth asa d 
marba yanqia gadlilkhun umathnalkhun alma Ikimsat almta brakhinun 
yardnia saghia brakhtinkhun masbuta d labatla mn rish brish. 

As I doubt the correctness of this text, which a priest 
wrote from memory, I prefer not to venture a translation. 
Priests say that the wreaths thus hung up secure the bless- 
ings of fertility and good health. 16 

On the i ^th of the month Mandaeans are allowed to 
slaughter and are permitted to eat meat. It is a cheerful 
feast, but the 22nd is an unlucky day, and no enterprise 
should be undertaken or religious ceremony performed, 
for it is mbattal (useless, inauspicious). If a man dies on 
a mbattal day, a zidqa brikha must be performed for him 
on his substitute at Panja. The 25th day of the next 
month, Nuna, is also mbattal. The month of Umbara 

* ^ 

has no particular feast or day of ill-omen. The first 
four days of Taura are mbattal. The i8th of Taura is 
the Dehwa Hnina, or Little Feast, sometimes called the 
Dehwa (Dihba) Turma. In 1932 and 1935 this feast fell 
on November 23rd and presumably in 1933, but I did 
not then note it down. The feast lasts for three days and 
baptisms should take place and the dead be remembered 
by lofani or ritual meals for the dead. Dehwa Hnina 
celebrates the return of Hibil Ziwa from the under- 
worlds to the worlds of light. This feast seems a curious 
repetition of the death or incarceration with subsequent 
return or resurrection motives of the New Year Feast, 
and later of the Panja festival. I suggest that the reason 
may be that all three were once New Year feasts, and fell 
at the spring of the year. The root-ideas of the mourning 
and rejoicing at this season are found at a very early date 

Cosmo gony. Astrology, and Holy -days 89 

both in Babylonia and Persia. The priests assure me that 
Panja (which certainly corresponds to the neo-Babylonian 
New Year's feast in the month of Nisan) has fallen, from time 
immemorial, at the season of the melting of the snows and 
the consequent rising of the rivers. But they seem ignorant 
of any method of correcting the calendar by such a system 
as that of the intercalary month after each 120 years em- 
ployed by the Old Persians (Al-Blrum, p. 12), although 
one priest told me that in the past, when priests were 
wiser, such corrections had taken place. One thing is 
certain : the most important feast of the Mandaean year at 
present is, not the so-called Great Feast at the so-called 
New Year, but the spring-feast of Panja, which I shall 
presently describe. 

I was invited lately to a Mandaean house for the feast 
of Dehwa Hnina. Contrary to religious precept, the 
women wore jewellery and were clad in silken raiment of 
bright hue. One or two of them danced to the clicking of 
ringers and rhythmical clapping of hands and the singing 
of dirge-like wedding songs in Persian. 

In the month of Silmia there is no day of note. In 
Sartana the first day is called Ashuriyah, which com- 
memorates the drowning of the Egyptians who perished 
in the Red Sea (see Book II, p. 26j r ). 17 Special lofanis are 
eaten for the Egyptians who are considered to have been 
Mandaeans. The 9th, I5th, and 23rd days of this month 
are mbattal. Qam Aria is a good month and lucky for those 
born in it, but it is forbidden to marry during that month. 
The last five days of Shumbulta 18 (the Ear of Corn, Virgo) 
are mbattal^ for they are dedicated to the five lords of the 
underworld, Shdum, Hagh and his consort Magh, Gaf 
and his consort Gafan, Zartai-Zartani, and Krun, the 
Mountain-of-Flesh. These five mbattal days, given over 
to the Darkness, necessitate the reconsecration of the 
manda^ or cult-hut, during the five ensuing days of light. 
These are the five intercalary days of Parwanaia, or Panja, 
the happiest time of the whole year, during which the 
great baptismal river feast is held. It falls at the time when 
the river is swollen by melting snows from the north, i.e. 

4363 N 

90 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

during the first warm days of spring. In 1932, 1933, 
1934, 1935 Panja fell on April 5th but in 1936 it fell on 
April 4th. Each of the five days is dedicated to a spirit of 
light and, as the doors of the world of light are open during 
Panja by night as well as by day, prayers may be offered 
at night. On other nights of the year no prayer may be 
said after sunset. One night during Panja is an especial 
night of grace, like the night of Dehwa d Shishlam Rba, 
and any right petition made to the lords of light will be 

Panja is a religious festival rather than a season of 
carnival, and Subba who live far from a priest travel long 
distances in order to be baptized as many times as their 
means allow, and join in the lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and 
dukhranas for the dead. The dead, assembling at the 
sacred meals and summoned by the mention of their names 
in the ritual, are refreshed by the spiritual double of the 
foods, and bless the living. The uneasy souls of those 
delayed upon the road to the worlds of light because they 
died an unclean death, or on a mbattal day, or without the 
proper death-ceremonies and clothing, are represented by 
proxies at the ceremonies of ahaba d mania and others, 
and clothed, purified, and sustained are furthered on their 
way through the mataratha. Families save up to pay the 
fees necessary for these ceremonies; indeed, they regard 
the barriers between them and their dead relatives, back 
to distant ancestors and the spirits of light who begot them, 
as down during the five days of holiness. The soul of a 
person who dies during this period, when it emerges from 
the tomb on the third day, passes without hindrance 
through the mataratha, and the costly dezth-masiqfa is not 
necessary for such a one. Hence relatives of a person dan- 
gerously ill long that he should die at this time, and I have 
noted that in a small hamlet three persons died of different 
diseases in one year at this season. No doubt, if a person 
is dangerously ill, a baptism in the river might be expected 
to produce the desired result. The patient himself is 
anxious to leave the world at this season, for no demons or 
wild beasts (zangoyi) will have power to harm his soul on 

Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 9 1 

its journey, and it accomplishes the long and difficult 
journey to the Gate of Abathur in a single day. 

During Panja every true believer should dress com- 
pletely in white (this is not observed strictly), and should 
either wear sandals woven of grass or go barefoot. The 
latter is usually the custom, though priests tell me that in 
ancient times it was considered a sin to walk barefoot on 

Dogs of Nirigh Lions of Kiwan 

FIG. 5. The Zanghaiia 

the earth, and that the real object of the injunction was 
that worshippers of the Life should not wear upon their 
feet the skins of dead animals. 19 No meat may be eaten 
except the flesh of sheep sacrificed in the ritual meals for 
the dead. Before its end, the consecration of the manda 
involves the sacrifice of a sheep and a dove, described in a 
later chapter. This feast brings in much revenue to the 

The next feast, which falls ninety days after Panja, on 
the first of the month Hatia, is the Dehwa Daimana 
(Dihba Daima). 20 This feast celebrates the baptism of 
Adam, and pious Mandaeans should be baptized like 
their ancestor. As Daimana now falls in the summer, 

92 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

it is a favourite occasion for the baptism of young children. 
At this feast, a person baptized in a new rasta acquires 
merit for sixty baptisms. On the day following, it is for- 
bidden to slaughter animals. 

Abstention from animal food is the only form of Man- 
daean fasting. Mandaeans have told me that they observe 
the Moslem 'Arafat as a fast, but it is not prescribed by 
their holy books. All Moslem festivals are mbattal days 
for Mandaeans. 

In the last month of the year, Gadia, or Tabith, the 
three days before Kanshia uZahla at the end of the month 
are mbattal. 21 

Before leaving this question of calendar it is interesting 
to compare Petermann's record. In 1854 he notes that 
Awwal Gita was on February 2jrd, Awwal Paiz on May 
28th, Awwal Sitwa on August 26th, and Awwal Abhar 
on November 24th. There is, therefore, a difference of 
nineteen days between the Awwal Gita of 1854 and that 
of 1 935, and the feasts are travelling slowly backwards. If 
Panja is to be kept at the flood-time a correction must be 
made before another eighty years shall have elapsed, or the 
feast will fall before the flood-time during the bitter cold. 

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that a ganzibra told me 
that the length of the year is based on the time that a child 
takes to mature in its mother's womb (which period he 
estimated as nine months, nine days, nine hours, nine 
minutes, nine seconds and a half!) together with the forty- 
five days of her purification, plus the 'time that the seed 
was in the loins of the father'. This is a typically Mandaean 
speculation, but I have not yet traced it in any of the holy 

The history of Man on earth is divided by the Man- 
daeans into four epochs. At the end of each, mankind was 
destroyed with the exception of one human couple. From 
the creation of Adam and Eve to the destruction of the 
race by 'sword and plague' was a period of 2 1 6,000 years. 
One pair, named Ram and Rud (Sky and River), survived 
disaster. Just as in the case of the first pair (see Legend I, 
Book II), a union took place between the male survivor 

Cosmogony^ Astrology ', and Holy-days 93 

and the light-double of his spouse to ensure the con- 
tinuance of the Mandaean race, whilst the rest of mankind 
proceeded from the ordinary union of the pair. After 
156,000 years a second disaster resulted in the perishing 
of the human family through fire. A second pair survived, 
Shurbai and Sharhabi'il (the word shurbai seems to mean 
a spreading out, or propagation root shrb, 'to spread 
out'). The processes of reproduction of Mandaeans and 
Gentiles were repeated in the case of each successive couple. 
A hundred thousand years later the Flood again obliterated 
the human race with the exception of Nuh and his wife 
Nhuraitha or Nuraitha. (The word nuh comes from a root 
meaning 'the calming of tempest' and nhuraitha has, of 
course, a 'light' meaning.) 

There is to be a fourth destruction of the world in the 
79ist year of the sign of the Fish (Nuna). This will be 
by 'wind' or 'air'. Some Mandaeans gaze at the aeroplanes 
which fly over their heads in modern Iraq, and ask them- 
selves if the destruction of man will come about in that 
manner. My silversmith friend, Hirmiz, interprets, 'men 
will poison the air and so die', which may reflect coffee- 
house talk about poison gas. 


I. Mana Rba, sometimes Mana Rba Kabira, the Great Mana. There 
is a difference of opinion as to the meaning of Mana. Hoffmann and Pallis 
incline to the meaning of 'garment', identifying it with the baptismal gar- 
ment. Brandt (BDM.) says, 'usually means "vessel" or "instrument" '. 
Noldeke (N. xxxii) assumes it to be a word of Iranian origin, 'das ich etwa 
mit "Geist" (oder noch besser mit "Intelligenz") ubersetzen mochte'. 

Cf. the Vedic Manas or Mana meaning 'mind', 'thinker', or 'soul', with 
Vohu Mana, the Good Mind and Akem Mana, or Negation Mind the 
two aspects of Ahura Mazda which produced the real and intellectual 
worlds. Macdonell in his Vedic Mythology (Grundriss der indo-arischen 
Philologie und Altertumskunde) says (p. 166 f.) that the Vedas divided the 
animating principle into asu 'spirit', expressing physical vitality, even of 
animals, and manas, 'soul', as the seat of thought and emotion, which 
already in the Rig Veda (8, 89 v.) seems to be regarded as dwelling in the 
heart \hrd}. 

A Mandaean priest gives four meanings for the word mana. (a) the 
soul, (ft) a dove, (f) a garment, (d) a house. Cf. the Persian man for house. 

94 Cosmogony, Astrology r , and Holy-days 

2. ' Uthria and Malkia ('Uthri and Melki). These are semi-divinities 
who carry out the will of the Great Life. All are subordinate to the Creator, 
whose first manifestation they were. 

The word malka means 'king', not 'angel', and Lidzbarski translates it 
thus. Though the functions of the malka resemble those of the Hebrew 
maldk and Arab maldk (messenger, angel), the Mandaeans use the word 
malakJi to denote an evil spirit. 

The apocryphal Book of Enoch shows a conception of heavenly beings 
not remote from the Mandaean, inasmuch as the angels are there said to 
have power as regents over such natural phenomena as clouds and con- 
stellations. In Mandaean literature these intermediaries between the dark 
and material earth and a world of light too pure and ethereal for im- 
mediate contact with such grossness seem to be personifications of abstract 
qualities and principles, or of the physical powers of Nature. 

They resemble the Tazatas of the Avesta, for there were Tazatas of the 
spiritual world and Tazatas of the physical world who 'preside over grand 
physical objects of Nature' (JJM., p. 481). 

Josephus (vol. iv, p. 1 54) mentions that the Essenes imparted the names 
of angels to initiates, together with other mysteries. 'He' (the proselyte) 
'swears to communicate their doctrines to no one in any other way than as 
he received them himself and that he will abstain from robbery, and will 
equally preserve the books belonging to their sect and the names of the 

It is a sin for a Mandaean to reveal the names of the malkia to a Gentile, 
and when a name of a malka has been given me, my informant has some- 
times added, 'They' (his fellow-Subba) 'will be angry if they know I have 
given you secret names.' 

In the colloquial Arabic of Iraq the word melek is sometimes used for 
'evil spirit' orjinni. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the Yazldi Malak 
Tawus or Peacock Angel (the Prince of Darkness) has a namesake in the 
Drasha d Yahia, where Tausa is the name given to a malka who bewails 
that he has sinned against the Great Life and allowed his pride to lead him 
into rebellion. 

The Mandaean word malka is used of both good and evil spirits, whereas 
the word *uthra is used only for beneficent beings. 

In general, "uthria (sing. *uthra) designate life-giving and life-sustaining 
spirits. It is akin to the Syriac ifcs^. 'to be rich, abounding', but I see no 
reason why *uthra should therefore be translated 'wealth', nor can I agree 
with Lidzbarski's suggestion (in "Uthra and Malakha', pp. 537-45)that 
the word was chosen to avoid confusion with the Jewish and Moslem 
names for 'angel'. His explanation seems weak. 

I prefer to derive it from its figurative sense of 'full-to-flowing-over' and 
suspect that the Mandaean verb nthr 'to shed, to overflow' has a remote root 
relationship: i.e. a(n)thr. Professor W. Robertson Smith in his Religion of 
the Semites, pp. 98-100, mentions a South Arabian god named Athtar 
who presided over irrigation, and says that *athari meant what was watered 
by the sky and the fountains (Ba'al's land). Here is an original root- 

Cosmogony, Astrology^ and Holy -days 95 

meaning of an overflowing of the waters of heaven on to the earth, and 
this, with the Mandaeans, would have a divine character as living water 
coming from the House of Life. Thus ( uthri may have been originally 
life-spirits bringing fertility and wealth in the shape of rain and springs. In 
barren lands which only blossom when spring rain falls such messengers 
would indeed be 'bringers of life'. The fact that consorts of matkiaand. 
*uthria are called anania (clouds) and nituftatha (drops) lends colour to this 
conception. I suggest that the term *uthra was originally applied to water- 
spirits rather than light-spirits and that the term took on a wider meaning 
by degrees. (Cf. the Arabic name for the Pleiades, thurayya, diminutive 
of thirwa (wealth), where the old meaning lingers in the belief, mentioned 
by Al-Blruni (p. 343), that the constellation was looked upon as a rain-giver. 

3. Hibil Zizva. Mandaean priests translate the name as 'Light-Giver'. 
Hibil Ziwa is easily the most 'popular' of the spirits of light. In legend he 
appears oftener than Manda d Hiia. He must not be confused with Hibil, 
Adam's son. Adam's family suggests a sentence 'Adam Hibil Shi til Annush', 
'Man gave progeny to Mankind'. 

4. Abathur. Mandaeans explain that there are two Abathurs, one 
Abathur Muzania, the malka of the North Star (who has four malkia or 

uthria with him) and the other Abathur Rama, an epithet for Hibil Ziwa. 
This is to explain contradictory passages in the Ginza, Diwan Abathur, 
and elsewhere, for Hibil Ziwa, sometimes identified with Abathur, is 
occasionally represented as talking to Abathur. Abathur Muzania presides 
over the scales in which the human soul is weighed. See below, note on 
Pthahil. The Parsis believe that the soul is weighed after the passage over 
Chinvat Bridge by Meher Davar Meher the Judge. In the Yasna it is Vohu 
Manah (Good Mind) who weighs the deeds of men at the Judgement. 

5. Pthahil. Lidzbarski connects this demiurge with the Egyptian 
Ptah (JB., p. xxviii). Brandt (BDM., pp. 50 ff.) points out that the 
figure of Pthahil is contradictory and appears both as demon and divinity. 
In modern belief, Pthahil rules the shiviahia (see p. 254), receives the 
newly arrived souls of the dead, and starts them on their journey through 
the realms of purification, ending at the scales of Abathur Muzania. If the 
soul weighed in these scales passes the test, it crosses in a boat to the realms 
of light, where it meets other purified souls and its own dmutha or over- 
soul. The Chinese also believe in the weighing of the soul, its sojourn in 
purgatory, and journey in a boat to Paradise, so that the resemblance to 
the Egyptian Book of the Dead has little bearing on the question of the 
identification of Pthahil with Ptah, though the Egyptian god certainly 
plays a part in the destiny of the soul after death. 

In Mandaean literature, Pthahil is depicted (i) as creator, or partial 
creator, (2) as rebellious to the world of light, but later repentant and 
reconciled. He is the son of Hibil Ziwa (Abathur) by Zahari'il, a female 
spirit of the underworld. H. b. A. comments: 'Pthahil, son of Hiwel Ziwa 
and Zahariel, is a son of both Darkness and Light. He is the melka who 
rules the lesser stars.' 

96 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy -days 

6. World-Periods. Shahristani and other Arab authors mention the 
theories of the Harranian Sabians concerning these. Chwolson says (vol. i, 
p. 765): 'Diese Lehre ist durchaus nicht bios den Harraniern eigenthiim- 
lich, sondern sie wurde auch von Indern, Babyloniern, Aegyptern, von 
verschiedenen philosophischen Secten in Griechenland, und vielleicht 
schon in sehr alter Zeit von den Griechen iiberhaupt gelehrt. . . . Nach 
Colebrooke glauben die Inder ebenfalls an verschiedeneWelterneuerungen, 
die sie Kalpas nennen, und sie meinen, dass am Ende der Maha juga 
welche die vollkommende Umwalzung aller Gestirne zu einer gewissen 
Conjunction der Sonne, des Mondes und der Planeten herbeifiihren soil 
Siva sich mit Wishnu verbinden und die Welt durch einen Feuerwind ver- 
brennen werde, allein so, dass bei dieser Zerstorung die Samen aller Dinge 
in den Lotus, in die Gebarmutter der Bhawani, aufgenommen werden, 
woraus eine neue Welt entstehen werde.' 

The time assigned to each Kalpa is 36,000 years. Al-Birum (p. 17) says, 
'For the Persians and Magians think that the duration of the world is 
12,000 years, corresponding to the number of the signs of the Zodiac and 
of the months'. 

7. Habshaba. Literally, 'the-first-of-the-week'. In the spoken Syriac 
of the Assyrians the word is pronounced as in Mandaean Hoshabba. The 
personified Sunday is often mentioned in Mandaean literature. In Legend 
XXVIII, 'Hirmiz Shah', Hoshaba seems to be identified with Yukabar 
Ziwa (Yukhawar Ziwa). Mandaeans, like the worshippers of Christ and 
Mithra, give especial honour to the day of the Sun; the Mithra religion 
because this planet was the centre of their life and fertility cult, the 
Christians, according to their tradition, because Jesus is said to have risen 
from the dead on a Sunday, and because the rising sun symbolized resur- 
rection. The belief that the sun setting in the West was associated with 
death and its rising in the East with rebirth or resurrection is a belief 
found all over the globe. The Mandaeans probably inherited their tradition 
from the Iranians. The Ginza speaks slightingly of the Christian observance 
of Sunday (GR., 2nd book), 'On Sunday they keep their hands still', 
with the implication that they themselves do not consider it a day of rest 
like the Christians, or regard it as the Jews do the Sabbath. Baptisms and 
religious exercises are enjoined, but otherwise, Sunday is an auspicious 
day for business. 

8. The Planets. Under the Magian system, Professor Moulton remarks, 
the planets were creatures of Ahriman, and evil. 'Whether they were really 
so', he continues, 'in the pure Iranian Mazdaism may be doubted, for they 
were named after the Yazdatas Jupiter was Ormazd, Venus Anahit, &c.' 
(Early Religious Poetry of Persia, p. 133). 

9. Parallels are numerous between Mandaean ideas and cults and those 
of the Mithraic, Sampsaean, and Magian religions, in which the sun, its 
personifications, heroes, and symbols, were associated with the divine prin- 
ciple of life. 

10. Nergal (nirg-al'] was originally a solar deity, like Shamash and 

Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy -days 97 

Marduk, and was the god of war, pestilence, and destruction; also a god 
of the dead and associated with the goddess Allatu of the underworld. 

11. Modern Parsis, like the Magians (see Al-Blruni), reckon twelve 
months of thirty days with five annual uncounted additional days (Gatha 
days). The Babylonians divided the year into twelve astronomical periods 
of thirty days with five and a quarter additional days (see Winckler's 
Himmels- und Weltenbild der Ba&ylonter, p. 1 7) . See Al-Blruni for various 
contemporary calendars and arrangements for the intercalary days. 

12. The Parsis, since their emigration to India (according to Al-Blruni 
since the coming of Islam), have ceased to regard proper intercalation. 
See JJM. p. 458. 

13. See Legend XV. 

14. These cakes are also used at festivals by Moslems, Jews, and 
Christians in Iraq. Shi' as eat them in spring and the three sacred months 
with prayers 'for the dead', the names of dead relations and ancestors being 
mentioned. This ceremonial eating they call the 'thuwaff '. The kleycha 
eaten by the Shi e as is sweetened and spiced and sometimes has a little meat 
in it. In shape it is round and marked with a cross (they call it 'quartered') 

with a dot in each quarter OX This quartered circle with four dots 

is sometimes scratched on the clay tables used at the wedding ritual meal of 
the Mandaeans. The sign is pre-Christian. It was found stamped on the 
shoulder of a vase from Tabus by Sarreand Herzfeld (Abb. 388,Keramische 
Stempel). Sarre writes: 'Runde einfache gemusterte Stempel kommen schon 
aufspatantikenGefassenvor, und so scheint der primitive Stempel aufeinem 
aus Tabus stammenden Scherben (Taf. CXLII, Nr. 2a) nichts mit dem 
christlichen Kreuz zu tun zu haben' (Arch. Reise im Euphrat- und Tigris- 
Gebiet, v. Friedrich Sarre und Ernst Herzfeld, Bd. iv, Berlin, 1920, p. 1 1). 

The sign -ill. is often used in tattooing. Miss W. Smeaton found a 

policeman of the 'Uzairij tribe from Amarah marked thus on both temples 
'because his mother kept losing children and she wanted to preserve his 
life'. It is also employed as a cure for head-pains. 

15. The ritual tablets of the sky-god Anu at Uruk (Warka) (Thureau- 
Dangin, Rituels accadiens, pp. 129 ff.) describe how, in the month Nisan 
(April), the New Year in Babylonian reckoning, the priest rose before 
sunrise, washed himself in river water, put on a clean garment, and prayed 
to Bel. At the New Year the gods paid ceremonial visits to each other. 

During the Assyro-Babylonian period the New Year's Festival in the 
month of Nisan seems associated with the akitu festival so learnedly dis- 
cussed by Professor Pallis in his The Babylonian Akitu Festival. Just as the 
Mandaean priests work out the destinies of nations and private individuals 
for the year, the 'tablets of destinies' were consulted by Babylonian priests 
at the New Year. The Mandaean period of incarceration is reminiscent of 
Tammuz's incarceration below the ground, his subsequent resurrection, 

4363 o 

98 Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy-days 

and the return of fertility to the earth in spring. It is probable, as explained 
on pp. 8 8-89, that the Mandaean New Year was originally a spring festival. 

Al-Birunl notes that the Persian Nauroz has receded from its original 
proper place, 'so that in our time it coincides with the sun's entering the 
sign of Aries, which is the beginning of spring'. He wrote in the tenth 
century A.D. 

'On the 6th of Farwardan, the day Khurdadh is the great Nauroz, for 
the Persians a feast of great importance. On this day they say God 
finished the creation, for it is the last of the six days' (i.e. the intercalary days, 
which the Mandaeans, too, place in the spring. E.S.D.) 'mentioned above. 
On this God created Saturn, therefore its most lucky hours are those of 
Saturn. On the same day they say the Son Zarathustrae came to hold 
communion with God and Kaikhusrau ascended into the air. On the same 
day the happy lots are distributed among the people of the earth' (The 
Chronology of Ancient Nations, p. 201, Sachau's trans.). 

1 6. This hanging of garlands on the houses recalls the Yazldi spring 
festival, when garlands are hung on the houses by the qawwdh. This feast 
takes place, however, in Nisan, the spring month, and in other respects, 
such as ritual meals for the dead, it seems akin to the Parwanaia (Panja) 
feast of the Mandaeans. 

17. Al-Biruni, p. 328, mentions that the Jews kept the loth day of 
Muharram ('Ashura) holy because 'on this day God drowned Pharaoh'. 

1 8. Here, again, is a suggestion of the incarceration of Tammuz (see 
note 15). Modern Parsis, like the Magians, observe the last five days of 
the year as holy. 

'The first of these 10 days are known as the Panj-i-keh, i.e., the lesser five 
days ; and the second five, which are the Gatha Gahambar intercalary days, 
as the Panj-i-meh, i.e., the greater five days. The latter are held in higher 
veneration than the first five' (JJM., pp. 468-9). 

'The last five days of the month (i.e. Aban-Mah) the first of which is 
Ashtadh, are called Farwardajan. During this time people put food in the 
halls of the dead and drink on the roofs of the houses, believing that the 
spirits of the dead during these days come out from the places of their reward 
or punishment, that they go to the dishes laid out for them, imbibe their 
strength, and suck their taste. They fumigate their house with juniper, that 
the dead may enjoy its smell. The spirits of the pious men dwell among 
their families, children and relations, and occupy themselves with their 
affairs, although invisible to them. Regarding these days there has been 
among the Persians a controversy. According to some, they are the last 
five days of the month Aban, according to others they are the Andergah, 
i.e. the five Epagomenae which are added between Aban and Adharmah. 
When the controversy and dispute increased, they adopted all (ten) days 
in order to establish the matter on a firm basis, as this is one of the chief 
institutes of their religion, and because they wished to be careful, since they 
were unable to ascertain the reals facts of the case. So they called the first 
five days the first Farwardajan; and the following five days the second 

Cosmogony, Astrology, and Holy -days 99 

Farwardajan; the latter, however, is more important than the former.' 
(Al-Biruni, p. 210.) 

Modern Parsis, like the Magians, carry on during the five last days of 
the year and the five intercalary days which precede the New Year, a special 
cult of the dead, as do the Nestorian Christians of Iraq, who eat ritual 
meals (dukhranas) for dead relations, ancestors, and saints at Easter. The 
Yazldl spring feast in April is accompanied by ritual meals for the dead, 
including the killing of a lamb. 'On the eve preceding the spring feast each 
Yazldl kills a lamb or buys meat, in order to "give it to the dead", and at 
break of day youths and maidens set off over the hills to make nosegays of 
wild flowers. Each house is decorated with garlands. Then the women 
take the food they have prepared and visit the graves of their dead, accom- 
panied by qawwdls playing drums, pipes, and cymbals. The food, which is 
afterwards given to the poor, is placed on the graves, while the priests chant 
hymns, and the women do not forget to make the customary offerings to the 
priests. The visit to the cemetery over, the day is passed in merriment and 
feasting' (Stevens, By Tigris and Euphrates, p. 185). For an account of the 
Mandaean and Parsi meals for the dead see Chapters XI, XII, and XIII. For 
Shl'a eating of cakes for the dead at Nau-Roz, see note 14 of this chapter. 

It is not my purpose here to go into similar beliefs and customs of the 
Japanese and Chinese, which include the ritual meals and visits of ancestors 
and dead to their former relations, cleansing of the houses, and so forth. 
It appears likely that this cult of the dead at spring-time spread along the 
road taken by the silk-merchants. 

19. The conception might be Iranian. Cf. Sir Jlvanji JamshedjI Modi's 
article on Darab Hormazdyar's Rivayat in No. 23 of the publications of the 
K. R. Cama Oriental Institute (Bombay, 1932), p. 195 'When one walks 
barefooted, he commits for every step (gam) a tanafursu\ up to three steps. 
When he takes a fourth step, the sin is tanamri. The above sins apply even 
if one foot has a shoe and the other not. . . . For the first step that a man 
walks barefoot, the milk of 100 cows and sheep and camels gets diminished; 
for the 3rd step that of 300 cows and sheep and for the 4th step that of all 
the cows and sheep and quadrupeds of all the seven continents (keshvar) of 
the world gets diminished.' Modi explains that the reason is that the foot may 
come into contact with defiling matter. Mandaean priests are barefoot during 
prayer and ritual. In their houses they stand on matting for religious exercises. 

20. This feast, 90 days after Panja, corresponds to the first of Khurram- 
Roz, which the Persians in Al-Blrunl's time called Nuwad-Roz 'Ninety- 
Days', because there were 90 days between it and Nauroz. This furnishes 
further proof that the Mandaean Panja at one time preceded the New Year, 
like the Magian Panja or Fanja. The GR., rt. side, Bk. iii, frag. 2, refers to 
walking barefoot as a sin. 

21. For the Kanshia u Zahla (i.e. sweeping and cleansing) cf. Anquetil 
du Perron's description of the Parsis at Surat during Fravardegan: 'The 
houses are purified and decorated. They do not go out of the house.' 



HE central rite of the Mandaean cult is immersion in 
water, which is regarded not only as a symbol of Life, 
but to a certain degree as life itself. A Mandaean priest 
said to me one day, 'The earth is like a woman and the 
sky like a man, for it makes the earth fecund', and this 
idea is repeated several times in Alf Trisar Shiala and the 
Tafsir Paghra. Here rain is regarded as semen. The 
belief that water contains a fluid capable of fertilizing, not 
only the earth, but occasionally women, appears in the 
story of the conception of John the Baptist: 'Anosh 'Uthra 
gave Inoshvey water from the yardna to drink and she 
became pregnant' ; and, 'now Zakharia and Inoshvey were 
old and it happened that she drank water and became 
pregnant of the water', two versions of the same legend 
given me by two different priests. The idea is not peculiar 
to the Mandaeans. There is a legend amongst the Mos- 
lems that, after the martyrdom of Mansur al-Hallaj, his 
sister rilled a water-pot at the river. 'Her brother's soul 
hid in the jar', and when she drank the water, she became 
pregnant, giving birth to a son nine months later. 1 

Hence immersion in water is immersion in a life- 
fluid, and gives physical well-being, protection against the 
powers of death, and promise of everlasting life to the 
soul. 2 

Its second quality is purificatory. Just as it washes away 
filth, infection, and impurity from the body, it washes 
away sin and impurity from the soul. 3 

Water, which reflects the light, is considered a form of 
light (see Chap. I, note 4). A freshly baptized person is 
'clothed in light'. The conception that the firmament is 
filled with a fluid light and that water is a grosser form of 
it appears in the doctrine of the planetary boats. 

Water, however, is not composed entirely of magic and 
life-giving fluid. Only one part in nine is of the spiritualized 
vitalizing water, the rest is tahma, a lifeless fluid which 

Baptism ioi 

eventually passes out into the bitter waters of the sea, 
whereas the living water performs its life-giving task, or 
is drawn up to heaven to pass again into the heavenly yardna, 
the Frash Ziwa, or Light Euphrates. 

'The water of this world is divided into nine mithkal\ eight of 
earthly water, and one of water of life to strengthen the body of 
man. It is only the earthly part of water and bread which passes 
out of the human body as excrement and urine, the heavenly part 
remains in it to give it life.' (A ganzibra.}* 

Ritual ablution, that is, ablution carried out with certain 
actions and prayers, is a ceremony which, as it were, brings 
all the properties of this heavenly water into action and 
makes the recipient capable of benefiting by them. 

These conceptions are of the greatest antiquity, and 
argue continuity of idea and tradition. To the Mandaean, 
the waters of the Karun, Tigris, Euphrates, or Zab are of 
equal sanctity, because all contain this magic infusion of 
mia hiia 'living water', or, as one might call it, Water of Life. 

Mandaean ceremonial ablution is of three kinds. 5 The 
first is called the rishama. For this, the assistance of a 
priest is not required; each man is his own priest, and 
every Mandaean child learns the prayers recited for it. 6 It 
should be performed daily, and with covered head, just 
before sunrise ; after evacuation of the bowels (preceded 
by washing with a purificatory prayer); and before all 
religious ceremonies; in short, it corresponds in many 
ways to the Moslem tawaddu\ especially the more rigorous 
ablutions of the Hanafi sect. 

The second kind of ablution is a triple complete im- 
mersion in the river, also performed without the ministra- 
tions of a priest. This is called the tamasha. It must be 
performed by a woman after menstruation 7 and after 
childbirth, 8 though in the latter case it must be sup- 
plemented later by a full baptism. It must be performed 
after touching a dead body, 9 after coition, 10 after nocturnal 
pollution, 11 or any serious defilement or contact with a 
defiled person, as impurity is contagious, and a man touch- 
ing an unclean person becomes himself unclean. In the 

1 02 Baptism 

case of coition, this ablution must be performed im- 
mediately, by both man and woman ; in the case of death 
immediately after burial of the body; in the case of child- 
birth as soon as the woman can walk in fact, as soon as 

The third ablution is the masbuta, pronounced maswetta, 
which, for the sake of shortness, in spite of the incorrectness 
of the term, I will call 'full baptism'. This includes, and 
cannot be divorced from, the sacraments of oil, bread, and 
water, the hand-grasp and kiss called 'giving Kushta\ 
and the final blessing by laying the right hand of the priest 
on the head of the baptized person. This 'full baptism' 
is performed by the priest and should take place every 
Sunday, after major defilements (marriage, birth, touching 
the dead, illness, after a journey, &c.), after such sins as 
uttering falsehoods, talking low talk, after violent quarrels, 
or, in fact, any deed of which a man is ashamed. As a 
Mandaean said to me, 'After bad words, a man says to 
himself, "It would be better if I seek baptism" ' (Arabic 
astabag]i). l2 > The major sins, theft, murder, and adultery, 
demand more than one baptism. In general, 'the oftener 
one is baptized the better', say the priests, but baptism 
only takes place on Sunday, and at certain feasts, especially 
the five intercalary days of Panja, and, as a matter of fact, 
in these degenerate days many lay Mandaeans keep their 
rastas folded during the cold weather, excusing this by 
saying, 'we once lived where there were springs which were 
hot in winter and cold in summer, and maswttta was easy 

I will describe the first ablution, the rishama, in detail. 13 
As the Mandaean approaches the river, he says : (pronun- 
ciation) 'Ibrakh yardna rba ad meya. hei (I bless the great 
yardna of Living Water), or ' Bishmeyhun ad hei rbi 
asutha u zakiitha nhvtlakh^ ya ab abuhun IVLelka Piriawls 
yardna rba ad maty he? (In the name of the Great Life, 
healing and purity are thine, my Father, their Father, 
Melka Piriawis, Great Tardna of Living Water). He must 
tie his belt before he reaches the water. 

He then stoops and washes his hands, saying, ' Bishmeyhun 




)-< (U 



*4 ' 



1 02 Baptism 

case of coition, this ablution must be performed im- 
mediately, by both man and woman ; in the case of death 
immediately after burial of the body; in the case of child- 
birth as soon as the woman can walk in fact, as soon as 

The third ablution is the masbuta^ pronounced maswetta, 
which, for the sake of shortness, in spite of the incorrectness 
of the term, I will call 'full baptism'. This includes, and 
cannot be divorced from., the sacraments of oil, bread, and 
water, the hand-grasp and kiss called 'giving Kusjita\ 
and the final blessing by laying the right hand of the priest 
on the head of the baptized person. This 'full baptism' 
is performed by the priest and should take place every 
Sunday, after major defilements (marriage, birth, touching 
the dead, illness, after a journey, &c.), after such sins as 
uttering falsehoods, talking low talk, after violent quarrels, 
or, in fact, any deed of which a man is ashamed. As a 
Mandaean said to me, 'After bad words, a man says to 
himself, "It would be better if I seek baptism" ' (Arabic 
astabagQ. 12 The major sins, theft, murder, and adultery, 
demand more than one baptism. In general, 'the oftener 
one is baptized the better', say the priests, but baptism 
only takes place on Sunday, and at certain feasts, especially 
the five intercalary days of Panja, and, as a matter of fact, 
in these degenerate days many lay Mandaeans keep their 
rastas folded during the cold weather, excusing this by 
saying, 'we once lived where there were springs which were 
hot in winter and cold in summer, and maswetta was easy 

I will describe the first ablution, the rishama, in detail. 13 
As the Mandaean approaches the river, he says : (pronun- 
ciation) 'Ibrakh^ yardna rba ad meya hei (I bless the great 
yardna of Living Water), or ' Bishm eyhun ad hei rbi 
asutha u zakutha nlivilakh^ ya ab abuhun Melka Piriawis 
yardna rba ad maiy hei (In the name of the Great Life, 
healing and purity are thine, my Father, their Father, 
Melka Piriawis, Great Yardna, of Living Water). He must 
tie his belt before he reaches the water. 

He then stoops and washes his hands, saying, 'Biskmeyhun 


Baptism 1 03 

ad Mi rbi hallilin 'idan bkushta av *usfan bi haimanu- 
tha mallalin bmalala ad ziwa wa ushitibbun b* usri ad anhura 
(In the name of the Great Life,, purify my hands in 
righteousness and my lips in faith. Let them utter the 
speech of the Light and make my ablutions good (potent) 
by thoughts of Light). 

He washes his face three times, taking water in his 
hands and saying, 'Ibrekli ushmakh mshabba ushmakh^ marey 
Manda-t-Hei ibrekJi mshabba hakh_ parsufa rba ad *iqara 
ad mn nafshi aprasjf (I bless thy name, praised is thy 
name, my lord Manda d Hiia I bless! Be praised that 
great Countenance of Splendour which of itself was 

He next takes water in his hand and signs himself from 
ear to ear across the forehead from right to left, saying, 
''Ana A-plan bar Aplanetha arshamna brushma ad Mi ushma 
ad Mi wushma Manda-t-hei madkhar illey (I, N. son of N. 
his mother's malwasha name sign myself with the 
sign of the Life. The name of the Life and the name of 
Manda d Hiia are pronounced upon me). 

Next, three times, he dips two fingers in the river and 
cleanses his ears, saying, " Udney shama qala ad Hei! 1 (May 
my ears hear the voice of the Life). 

Taking water into his palm, he snuffs it three times up 
into his nose, repeating each time, l Anhiriirrah riha d hei!' 
( (May) my nostrils smell the perfume of the Life). 

He then washes the lower part of his body, saying, 
'Rusknia illawey la hwa bnura u la hwa ib misha wa la 
hwa bamsluha rushmey amshey rushmey byardna rba ad met 
Mi ad *unis]i bheyli la amsay ushma ad hei wushma ad 
Manda-t-hei madkhar illi (My sign it is not with fire [a 
polemic reference to Magians], nor with oil \Misha= 
'oil' or 'Moses', hence, a reference to Jews], nor with 
anointing \_ms_hiha=- 'anointing' or 'Christ', a reference to 
Christians], my sign is in the gxevit yardna of living water, 
which a man cannot attain by his strength [alone]. The 
Name of Life and the name of Manda d Hiia are men- 
tioned upon me'). 

Next, taking water into his mouth from his palm, he 

104 Baptism 

rinses it out three times, saying, l Pumey butha tushbihtha 
imla (May my mouth be filled with a prayer of praise). 
The ejected water is spat to the left. 

He washes his knees three times, with the words l Burkey 
ad mabrikha u saghdi Ihei rbi j (May my knees bless and 
worship the Great Life). 

Washing the legs three times: 'Laghrey ad midrikha 
durki adkushta uhaimanutha (May my legs follow the ways 
of right and faith). 

He dabbles his fingers in the river, his hands together 
and the palms downwards, saying, ''Ana asvina bmaswetta 
ad Eahram Rba bar rurbi maswetti tindtrai utisaq Iresh^ 
ushma ad hei ushma ad Manda-t-Hei madkhar ill? (I have 
baptized myself with the baptism of the great Bahram, 
son of the mighty [ones, Life ?], my baptism will guard me 
and lift [me?] to the rish_ literally 'head' 'beginning', 
here to the summit of perfection [i.e. the House of Life] 
and the name of Life and Manda d Hiia are pronounced 
upon me). 

Lastly, he dips the right foot twice and the left foot once 
_into the river, saying, l Lag^rey 'udeyhun ad shuwa atrisar 
la tishtalat illey wushma ad hei ushma Manda-t-hei madkhar 
illey 1 (May the Seven [planets] and the Twelve [signs of 
the Zodiac] not have dominion over my feet [lit. my-legs- 
their-hands]. The name of Life and the name of Manda 
d Hiia be pronounced upon me). 

It will be seen that this 'signing' is a minor baptism 
removing the lesser pollutions and protecting the faithful 
from the perils of daily life, as well as reiterating belief 
in eternal life. The only names used in this, or in any, 
ablution even to that of objects such as cooking-pots, are 
those of Life, of Manda d Hiia (translate it how one will), 
and the Persian name of Bahram. The latter is the Parsi 
Yazata, or Angel, of Victory, and associated with the 
ascent of the soul. In connexion with these ablution 
rituals he may be taken as a symbol of the soul's victory 
over death and ascent to the world of light. The use of 
this name shows the essentially Iranian nature of rites 
grafted on to an old and aboriginal water-cult. 

Baptism 1 05 

The second ablution is the tamasha (submersion), called 
sometimes the ghayas gu mia, I have witnessed it, as, for 
instance, when after a death, one of the corpse-bearers, 
who had just returned from the graveyard, waded out into 
the river as I passed. He had removed his rasta, except 
the sharwala, and carried it in a bundle with him into the 
river. When he had reached a place deep enough, he 
plunged thrice below the surface, and splashed water over 
his head three times, each time repeating the formula 
(given me on another occasion) : 

[As pronounced] i Bushmeyhun ad hei rbi ana uthban bheyla 
uheyli yardna tllawi uskri ithi anheth lyardna istaba qabbal dakhia 
rushma elwesh ustlt zzzua utres brishi kltla rowzi ushma het wushma 
dManda-t-hei madkhar illey ana Plan bar Planitha asvma bmaswetta 
ad Bahram Rba bar rurbi maswetti tinatray u tesaq laresh. 

'In the name of the Great Life! I seek (? <*.;=> I), strength; loose 
upon me the forces of the yardna (running water), let them come 
(upon me). I have gone down into the yardna^ I dip under, accept 
the pure Sign. I put on garments of light and place upon my head 
an effulgent wreath. The name of Life and the name of Manda 
d Hiia are pronounced upon me. I am N. son of N., I am baptized 
with the baptism of Bahram the Great, son of the mighty, and my 
baptism shall guard me and ascends to the summit/ 

I imagine that the 'effulgent wreath' refers to the water 
splashed over the head water again being regarded as 
synonymous with light. The various parts of the rasta 
were, of course, plunged in with their holder. 

No matter how bitterly cold the water (and in winter 
ice is sometimes found on water channels), the tamasha 
must be performed after serious defilement, and, in cases 
where no priest is procurable to perform the full baptism 
that should follow, the tamasha acts as a temporary pro- 
tection against the powers of evil, and prevents other 
persons and objects from becoming defiled by contagion. 

The third ablution is the full baptism. The cult objects 
for this are few and simple. The officiant must have plenty 
of freshly plucked myrtle twigs at hand, kept in a basin of 
water, so that they shall not droop. These twigs or agia 
are for the myrtle wreaths, or klilia 1 ^ used for the priest 
4363 P 

io6 Baptism 

himself, for the 'soul' or 'souls' (this is the expression used 
in the ritual for the persons who are baptized and receive 
the sacraments, and I shall employ it in my description). If 
there is a drabsha (banner) one is required for this as well. 
Next, there must be the toriana, or clay table. It is a cir- 
cular stand of clay mixed with straw, and stands on a 
kangana^ a round, ring-like stand, placed below the toriana^ 
and made of the same material. The toriana has a semi- 

circular recess protected by a ridge called the misra and 
upon this stands the qauqa^ which is a smooth terra-cotta 
cube, with a small round depression about the size of a 
threepenny-bit at the top to hold a pinch or so of incense 
(riha). The latter is a mixture of sandarach (resin), sandal- 
wood, andjawi or benzoin. The brihi which occupies the 
rest of the toriana is an egg-shaped clay fire-saucer, in 
which wood, reeds, or charcoal are burnt as fuel. In use, 
the narrow end must be placed to the north. When lit, this 
fire is used, either for the burning of incense, or for the 
baking of the pehtha (sacramental bread, written pihtha). 
The perimeter of a toriana in my possession is nearly 35 
inches, the semi-circular recess (misra) is 5 inches at the 
base and 3 across; the brihi> or fire-saucer, is about 19 
inches in perimeter and roughly an inch and a half deep, 
though shallower at the narrow end. The toriana has a 
depression beginning at the rim, but not deep. 

For occasions on which many persons are baptized, 
and for lofanis, a large, oblong clay box called the qintha 
(or qimtha] is used with, or instead of, the toriana. The lid 
of this box is slightly depressed, and has a misra like the 
toriana and is used for the brihi and qauqa like the toriana. 
I give a very rough drawing of the qintha^ Fig. 6 opposite. 

Flour (ground by the priest), and salt for the pihtha 
must be at hand, and small, shallow drinking-bowls for 
the sacramental water. These bowls are of brass, and 
about 1 1 inches or less in perimeter. In shape, they are 
like the sacramental bowls which appear in representations 
of Mithraic cult-objects, (see Cumont, Monuments^ &c.). 
The name of this drinking-bowl is keptha (written kaptha). 
The water to fill these bowls at the time which corresponds 


Y y V Y Y 

a. Kangana Mis fa (A) The Tori ana Qauqa (bit riha). Brihi 

b. Consecration of myrtle wreath 

Baptism 1 07 

to the Christian 'communion' is sometimes taken direct 
from the yardna (river, or pool of flowing water), and 
sometimes from a small glass bottle, the qanina, freshly 

The bread is made thus: the priest takes a little salt 
and flour in his hand and, going down to the yardna, mixes 
a little water with it in the palm of his hand. A round, flat, 
biscuit-like wafer called the pehtha (pihtha) 1 * i s the result, 

Q.auqa driha 


Kanganaia . 
round clay ring 

Misra '{ / ->s : <' 




FIG. 6. The Qintha 

though for mass-sacraments a larger pehtha is made, and 
if not all eaten by the first batch of 'souls' it is place'd in 
some recess, either in the wall of a house, or in the outer 
wall of the mandi where, does not seem to matter as long 
as the recess is first lustrated with water and used for 
the second batch. It must not be reserved for any length 
of time, the bread made must be eaten at the same sitting, 
similarly mambuha, or sacramental water, loses its virtue 
if left standing over-night. 

In the illustrations in the Diwan Abathur the pehtha is 
represented as round, with a cross marked on it, but I 
have never seen this sign on a pehtha in a present-day 
ritual. The Christian idea of a cross with an implication 
of blood-sacrifice is contrary to the whole Mandaean 
belief; indeed, this sign was not at first associated, even 

io8 Baptism 

by the Christians, with the instrument of Christ's passion, 
but was a 'life' or 'sun' symbol. In the Parsi ritual meal the 
sign of the cross is made over the ritual meal for the dead 
(JJM., p. 401), and Modi suggests that it is symbolic 
of the four points of the compass. This idea is corroborated 
by the Nestorian ritual, for the priest, as he places four wafers 
on the paten in the form of a cross, murmurs the words, 
'From East to West, from North to South'. It probably 
represents the journey and return of the sun, symbolizing 
resurrection. (See Chap. VI, note 14.) 

The sacramental water (mambuha or mambugha) is water 
and nothing else. Only at the masiqta ceremony for the 
dead and at the wedding ceremony is hamra, or fruit juice 
mingled with water, employed, and then, I take it, as an 
intensification of the vegetation-fertility symbolism. At no 
time in the ordinary sacraments is anything but -pure water 
drunk) and the priests declare that it has always been so. 

The last cult object, the dravsha (drabsha), is not em- 
ployed for all occasions of baptism, e.g. it was not at the 
baptism for a woman after childbirth, though it may be 
used for the baptism of a single person (I saw one em- 
ployed at a baptism at Dehwa Hnina, the Little Feast, 
when there was only one 'soul'). It is always present at 
the baptisms of Panja. The cross-piece from which the 
long silken strip hangs, and to which it is sewn, has been 
taken by people resolved to see in Mandaeanism a form of 
Christian gnosticism, for a cross. There is no foundation 
for such a misconception. The banner is purely a light- 
symbol, and Mandaeans imagine the light of the sun, 
moon, and stars as streaming from just such banners. (See 
Figs. 2, 3 and 4.) 

Water does not enter into the ritual for its consecration, 
some of the prayers for which are given by Lidzbarski 
(Q. 264). I give a photograph (Plate 12) of this consecra- 
tion. The strip is of unbleached white silk. Some Man- 
daeans have told me that it should be woven of so many 
stitches, but others declare it is not so. The specimens I 
have seen, though I was not allowed to handle and measure 
them, appeared all the same in length and breadth. To 

i' JL/i 1 

a. Consecration of the banner 

b. The banner ready for use (note sprigs of myrtle) 

Baptism 109 

judge by the eye alone, the strip was about 3 yards long 
and a dhra (see Chap. IV, note 4) wide. As the pole is 
about 2 yards high, the silk is looped up so as not to 
touch the ground, and thrown around the peak. The end 
is fringed. A myrtle wreath is slipped over the peak of the 
banner, and, just beneath the cross-piece, hidden from 
sight, a piece of gold wire called the aran dravshi, twisted 
into a 'letter', secures seven twigs of myrtle in place. The 
pole itself is of any kind of wood, and the pointed base 
which is thrust into the ground is usually shod with iron. 
It is the silk strip, not the staff, which is of ritual impor- 
tance. Had the pole with its cross-piece any significance, 
the wood would be specified, and one of the 'pure' woods, 
such as willow or olive, prescribed. The dravsha is never 
carried processionally. 

Before baptism, the 'souls' grasp first the bottom of the 
staff and then the peak, with their right hands, repeating 
each time a formula after the priest, the right hand of the 
priest being placed above the hands (or hand if there is 
only one candidate) of those about to be baptized. In the 
hand of the priest is the keftha and a klila. 

At the first baptism I ever witnessed, which was that 
of a woman after childbirth, there was no dravsha. I think 
it worth while to transcribe my notes on this occasion, as 
they represent clearly what was done, and the order in 
which the ritual proceeded, though I have added corrections 
and observations since. 

The Baptism of a Woman after Childbirth 

The rite took place on a Sunday, and at Amarah, where 
there is no mandi^ so that the river itself was the scene of 
the immersions. 

The ceremonies began at midday, so that both hour and 
day were solar. I arrived at the appointed time, and while 
the ganzibra went to put on his rasta^ his sister, Qurtasa, 
showed me the flour, freshly plucked myrtle twigs in 
water, and the various cult-objects. The ganzibra himself 
kindled the wood and charcoal in the fire-saucer (brihi\ 
which stood on theforiana. The first act was \heganzibra 's 

no Baptism 

rishama in the river (already described). On his return 
(the house was not on, but close to, the river), theganzi&ra, 
barefoot and clothed in his full rasta, took his stand on a 
square of matting with his back to the sun, facing the 
North Star, behind which, as he explained, 'Awathur 
Muzania has his throne'. He then proceeded with the 
rahmi, the prayers of which, on account of their length, 
I will not quote here, but content myself with describing 
the actions which accompanied them. They included the 
prayers for Sunday, for each day's rahmi includes the 
special prayers for the day. I will quote from notes printed 
as an appendix to my By Tigris and Euphrates with a few 

'The ganzowra (ganzibra is pronounced ganzivra or ganzowra) 
blesses each separate part of his rasta, touching each in turn. His 
prayer is voluble, sonorous, and so rapid that he draws his breath in 
a gasp when it will serve him no longer. He takes the tagha . . . 
and, holding it in his hands, and praying, touches his mouth, eyes, 
and brow with it, then places it beneath the turban on his head. He 
raises his right hand to the right side of the turban and keeps it there 
some moments. He picks up the incense-cube and touches his hand 
with it several times. Then he takes a pinch of incense between the 
right forefinger and thumb, stops his praying a moment to get a long 
straw with which he revives the fire in the fire-saucer, and then 
replaces the incense cube on the toriana^ resuming his prayer. Then 
he drops the pinch of incense on the glowing fuel, saying l Riha d 
haiy basiiri 1 &c. 

'He stops praying, and opens a book from which he reads rapidly 
in the same chanting voice employed in praying. He bows low, 
reading the while. He crouches and, continuing to read, takes the 
long end of his stole (nas'ifa] and carries it to his turban with his 
right hand, while still crouching and reading. He rocks himself from 
side to side. The staff (marghna] is held in the crook of the left 
arm. He drops the hand holding the end of the stole, but does not 
loosen his grasp of it. He stands again, reading continually, and 
makes little gesticulations with his right hand. He takes another 
pinch of incense and drops it on the fire, placing the staff for a while 
in his right hand. (Note that he does not touch the staff with the 
left hand, though it is held by the left arm during part of the 
ceremonies.) He stoops on his heels. He goes to the river and mixes 
the flour and salt with water (for the pihtha)^ while Qurtasa dresses 




. j 



r- 1 





Baptism 1 1 1 

her small nephew (the shganda) in his rasta y the child gazing smilingly 
at me. (Note. She kept up a running conversation with me the 
whole time regardless of what was going on.) 

' The ganzowra returns, bearing a small wafer of uncooked paste 
as big as an Osborne biscuit, places it on the embers in the fire- 
saucer, and bakes it. Then, taking it in his hand after long prayer, 
he eats it and drinks water from the qanina (which he had filled 
when he went down to mix the dough by the river). After these 
sacramental acts, he returns to the river to fill his keptha there and 
throw water three times over the end of his staff. He repeats the 
formula "Mqaymatun hei qadmoyi" sixty-one times, holding the end 
of his stole in his hands and marking off the numbers on the joints 
of his fingers. (This back again in the courtyard of his house.) He 
bows with the stole still held. He opens his palms upwards, keeping 
his hands together, then bows three times holding his hands to his 
body. He then calls his little son, who, taking the end of his father's 
stole, repeats a formula after him. The ganzowra places the end 
of his stole against the boy's turban. He continues to pray rapidly 
holding the end of the stole against the right side of his turban. 
Next he takes the tagha and touches eyes, mouth, and brow with it 
sixty-one times. This was the end of the rahml (rahmia}. 

' The small assistant picks up the sprigs of myrtle, the ganzowra 
carries the torlana apparatus and other accessories, and they walk 
out making a sign for me to follow. We walk along the short street 
which separates the house from the river. On the river-bank is a 
house. We enter the door which brings us into a pleasant court- 
yard in the centre of which plants and trees are growing. A few 
priests, women, and men await us. 

'A handsome, black-bearded young priest dressed in his white 
rasta takes the myrtle from the boy-acolyte, strips the lower end of 
a sprig of its leaves, and splits it into two long strips leaving the top 
leaves unplucked. The ganzowra, meanwhile, is making another 
sacramental wafer. He bakes it, and puts it on a white cloth. He, 
too, takes a twig of myrtle and divides the stem as the priest had 
done. He then leaves the house and goes to the river (I remaining 
where I was). On his return, he and the priest twist the myrtle 
into three rings. The ganzowra takes out the tagha from beneath 
his turban, placing one myrtle ring on the little ringer of his right 
hand (on which he wears the Shorn Tawar or priestly gold ring), 
and prays, his stole tucked into his htmtana. He touches eyes, 
mouth, and brow with the tagha and does the same with the myrtle- 
wreath (klila\ which eventually is placed with the tagha beneath 
the turban. He takes the hanging end of his turban and fastens it 

ii2 Baptism 

across the lower part of his face. He picks up the qauqa (incense 
cube) in his left hand, and places a pinch of incense on the fire in 
the fire-saucer, and then replaces the qauqa. He stands again and 
begins to read at a great rate, and when he has finished, tucks 
the lower portion of his over-garment (sadra or ksuya) into his 
belt. He lets the stole hang at full length, then lifts the ends and puts 
them over each shoulder, finally tying them tightly together while he 
repeats one prayer many times over. 

'Praying continuously, he walks from his house into the river, 
wading in up to his thighs. He dips the staff (marghna] twice 
beneath the water, places it upright in the water within the 
loop formed by his stole, and lets the myrtle-ring which was on his 
finger slip down over it (this later floats away down-stream). He 
washes the water with his hands, holding the staff firmly implanted 
in the mud of the bed of the stream. 

'The woman to be baptized (she has been in childbed and it is 
the fourth Sunday following the birth), wearing a black 'aba (mantle) 
over her rasta^ stands on the bank and repeats a formula after the 
ganzowra and then wades out to him. She dips under completely 
three times, while he, standing before her, splashes water back at 
her. She advances to the right of the ganzowra^ who takes her and 
dips her forehead three times beneath the water, and then "signs" 
her by passing his hand three times across her forehead from right 
to left and invests her with the myrtle wreath. She drinks three 
times from the hollow of his hand and repeats the formula "Kushta 
astakh qatmakh" after him, grasping his right hand in hers. 

'The woman wades back to the bank, and several small children 
bearing pots and utensils (everything used in the house during the 
confinement) wade out to the ganzowra^ who immerses and swills 
them three times round his body in the water, saying "Qazghan 
slwina bmaswetta d Bahram Rba bar rurbi maswettakh tinatrakh 
uttsaq Irish ushma d hel ushma ad Manda-t-hei madkhar UlaW' 1 
(so pronounced) over each article. 

'All make their way back to the house, the ganzowra not pausing 
in his prayer. The baptized woman, dripping wet, places herself 
before the ganzowra^ with her back to him. He takes a little sesame 
from a bag, makes a paste of it with a little water in a keptha^ and 
smears it across the forehead of the woman three times, she crouch- 
ing before him on her heels. He then touches her hand, and she 
goes to the river and splashes water over her bared right arm, using 
the right, and not the left, hand. On her return from the river, she 
holds her arm outstretched before her so that it may touch nothing, 
and the women tell me that she is not allowed to open her lips. 


^7. Baptism of infant 

. Mixing dough for the pi/itjia 

Baptism 113 

'The ganzowra then takes the pehtha and gives it to her to eat, 
and, next, pours water from the qanina into the keptha and gives 
it to her to drink. When she has done so, he pours a second time 
into the keptha and she drinks again. A third time he pours in 
water, but this she throws over her left shoulder while he says, 
"For thy left". He lays his hand on her head and prays. Both 
ganzowra and woman then extend their right arms towards the 
river, and the woman repeats after him the oath of witness, word 
for word. The ganzowra crouches behind the woman, being care- 
ful to let no part of his rasta touch the ground. Then both rise, 
she always keeping her back to him. He bows several times, then 
advances to stand beside her and takes her right hand in Kushta. 
She salutes him, touching heart and mouth and brow. Both crouch 

'The torrent of prayer ceases a moment as the ganzowra leaves 
the house to go down to the river. He returns bringing water, and 
prepares another pehtha^ holding the uncooked paste in his right 
hand and the qanina in his left. He cooks and eats the pehtha, drinks 
the water, then removes the pandama from his face. Again he 
returns to the river, and when he comes back, dashes water over 
his staff. He takes the end of his turban (rughza] in his hand and 
repeats the formula " Mqaimatun hei qadmoyi" sixty-one times. This 
part of the ceremony seems a repetition of the initial ritual. He 
takes his turban between his hands, and then bows several times 
with his hands held upon his body. 

'The boy-assistant gives his hand to the ganzowra and repeats a 
formula after him. The latter then lets down his looped-up skirts, 
and touches each part of his rasta in turn, praying over each. Next, 
he removes the tagha and the klila placed with it beneath the turban, 
and puts them to his mouth and then to each eye alternately sixty- 
one times. A little more prayer and the rite is concluded, having 
lasted exactly two hours.' 

Eleven years later I attended the great baptism feast 
(Panja) at Amarah and Qal'at Salih, and thereafter made 
the visit yearly. At the latter village, baptisms took place 
in the mandi enclosure, in which the pool and water 
channels to and fro (see p. 125) are always dug out and 
cleansed for the great five days of holiness and ablution (see 
pp. 89ff.), The baptism ritual, translated by Lidzbarski (Q.), 
was the same as that which I have described in the above 
notes. It is always preceded by the rahmi, consecration, 

4363 Q 

ii4 Baptism 

that is to say, of the priest himself, his rasta^ and his cult- 
objects, with the prayers for the day. But there are several 
points which need notice. First, there is the presence 
/( of the dravsha (drabsha)^ which is erected in the enclosure 
in the space between the east wall of the mandi (cult-hut) 
and the reed wall of the enclosure. The Mandaeans come 
in batches to be baptized, and all together grasp the dravsha 
in the manner described above, before going into the 
water, one by one for the immersion ceremony is always 
individual, and there is never more than one 'soul' in the 
water at the same time. On emerging from the water, 
walking round the fire, incense apparatus and dravsha 
clock-wise from the south, the candidate joins the group 
of wet (and often shivering) 'souls' who are waiting for the 
sacraments. These are given to the whole group together. 
By the sacraments I mean the 'signing' with oil, followed 
by a Kushta^ the administering of the pihtha and then of 
the mambuha, 'the laying of the hand on the head', and 
the final Kushta or hand-grasp. All these ceremonies are 

Whenever the water or wind is cold (and often they are 
icy), a fire is lit for the wet and waiting 'souls', some of 
whom are very old men. It is common for a log to be 
placed on the ground as a seat, for after ablution they 
must never sit on the ground, and kneeling is not a Man- 
daean attitude of prayer. When they crouch to receive the 
sacraments they often sit on their heels. As to attitudes 
of prayer generally, prostration is unknown, neither is the 
face covered with the hands at any time. The head is held 
erect, and the hands are either not used, held close to the 
body (at the saghda or bow, which is only from the waist), or 
employed in a ritual gesture, such as touching or knotting 
some part of the rasta, or held open palm upwards. Care 
is taken to allow no part of the rasta to come into contact 
with any unlustrated object. 

Benches and chairs are placed round the interior of the 
mandi wall, especially the east and west wall of the en- 
closure, for spectators. Some of these squat on the ground. 
The onlookers smoke, eat, converse, and go in and out as 


Ceremonial washing of pots 

1 1 4 Baptism 

that is to say, of the priest himself, his rasta, and his cult- 
objects, with the prayers for the day. But there are several 
points which need notice. First, there is the presence 
of the dravsha (drabsha), which is erected in the enclosure 
in the space between the east wall of the mandi (cult-hut) 
and the reed wall of the enclosure. The Mandaeans come 
in batches to be baptized, and all together grasp the dravsha 
in the manner described above, before going into the 
water, one by one for the immersion ceremony is always 
individual, and there is never more than one 'soul' in the 
water at the same time. On emerging from the water, 
walking round the fire, incense apparatus and dravsjia 
clock-wise from the south, the candidate joins the group 
of wet (and often shivering) 'souls' who are waiting for the 
sacraments. These are given to the whole group together. 
By the sacraments I mean the 'signing' with oil, followed 
by a Kusjita, the administering of the pihtha and then of 
the mambuha, 'the laying of the hand on the head', and 
the final Kushta or hand-grasp. All these ceremonies are 

Whenever the water or wind is cold (and often they are 
icy), a fire is lit for the wet and waiting 'souls', some of 
whom are very old men. It is common for a log to be 
placed on the ground as a seat, for after ablution they 
must never sit on the ground, and kneeling is not a Man- 
daean attitude of prayer. When they crouch to receive the 
sacraments they often sit on their heels. As to attitudes 
of prayer generally, prostration is unknown, neither is the 
face covered with the hands at any time. The head is held 
erect, and the hands are either not used, held close to the 
body (at the saghda or bow, which is only from the waist), or 
employed in a ritual gesture, such as touching or knotting 
some part of the rasta^ or held open palm upwards. Care 
is taken to allow no part of the rasta to come into contact 
with any unlustrated object. 

Benches and chairs are placed round the interior of the 
mandi wall, especially the east and west wall of the en- 
closure, for spectators. Some of these squat on the ground. 
The onlookers smoke, eat, converse, and go in and out as 


Ceremonial \\'ashing of pots 

Baptism 115 

they please, and do not make the least effort to lower their 
tones. Often, indeed, they will shout a question at the 
officiating priest who, with the utmost good humour, will 
check his flow of words to reply, and then proceed with his 
prayer. Men and women are baptized in separate groups 
and at different times. Men are baptized in their rastas^ 
women, as I have indicated in the notes quoted above, 
place a black 'aba over their rastas, which cling too close to 
the body when wet for modesty. 

Between these group baptisms the 'baptism' of pots, 
with the formula quoted in the above notes, goes on 
between each set of baptisms. The priest, standing knee- 
deep in the water, takes each pot in turn, and passes it 
three times round his body from right to left, gabbling the 
baptism words over each, then places it on the bank, while 
another is given to him. Not a pot or pan in the com- 
munity must go without this annual baptism, and they 
are brought as they are, all sooty from the fire, the film of 
soot which settles on the surface of the pool being but 
slowly borne away by the sluggish current. As each 
group of pots is 'baptized', they are placed, wet and 
still black, in the space north of the dravsha to dry. 
The interior of copper pots should be freshly tinned 
before baptism, a rule which prevents poisoning by ver- 

Each candidate is provided with a klila (myrtle wreath) 
which he keeps on his right-hand little finger, until the 
priest in the pool removes it and places it on his head. 
Before a candidate steps into the water for his immer- 
sion, he places an offering (a coin or coins) together with 
a sprig of myrtle on the bank of the pool, splashing his 
gift three times from the pool. The offering to the priest 
is not always given in this way; it may be placed on the 
toriana. The amount differs according to the inclination 
of the giver, or his means. I have seen a quarter of a dinar 
(55.) laid on the toriana^ and a sum equal to less than a 
farthing. The destitute are baptized for nothing, but 
this is a 'loss of face' which a pious person does not will- 
ingly incur. The money is not collected openly by the 

1 1 6 Baptism 

priest, but taken unostentatiously after the ceremony from 
the spot on which it was deposited. 

After the giving of the Kushta each candidate, now 
crowned with the myrtle wreath, the leafy part of which 
appears over his left temple, emerges to await the 
sacraments which are administered to the group, as 
described above, p. 114. He seats himself on his heels or a 
log, facing the north and the mandi, if there is one. 
There, by the fire, if it is cold, he warms himself in his 
dripping rasta while awaiting the assembly of the others. 
When some five or seven or other small number have been 
immersed, the priest comes out of the water, and signs 
each person's forehead three times with sesame, kneaded 
into a paste in a keptha (described in my quoted notes). 
After this, the 'souls' extend their right arms with the 
words, ' B'i weshka amar washtemma (Ask and find, speak 
and listen), and go down to the pool to wash their bared 
right arms. They do not touch the water with the left 
hand, but splash it upwards with the right. They return 
and crouch in a row with their right arms extended out- 
wards and upwards, and are given the pihtha (pehtha\ 
small fragments broken from a large flat piece of bread, 
used for more than one group, but only at one set of 
baptisms. When this is taken from the hole in the wall 
to be given to the communicants it is first sprinkled with 
a little water from the qanlna. 

The next step is the mambuha (sacramental water). The 
priest fills his qanina (bottle) at the pool, taking his keptha 
with him. During the consecratory prayers the waiting 
communicants converse or joke with the onlookers. There 
are usually two kepthas, one for the priest and another for 
the laymen. At the priest's return with the water, the 
B'i weshka formula is repeated, and the priest fills the 
keptha thrice for each man. The first two bowls are 
swallowed ; the third filling the communicant empties over 
his left shoulder while the priest says, 'Ashar ubaddal 
Ismalakfc. The priest then goes behind the crouching 
communicants and touches their heads with his fingertips 
many times, after which they extend their right hands 













Baptism 117 

towards iheyardna and take it to witness of their baptism. 
It is at this point that there is the direct denial of the power 
of Sun, Moon, and Fire : 'Mibtal batil Shamish . . . mibtal 

V J 

batil Sir a, . . . mibtal batil Nura' ('Shamish is null and 
void, &c.'). This denial at so solemn a point of the 
ceremony looks like an insertion for the admonishment 
of heretics and backsliders. For the final prayers all 
the communicants stand, and the last Kushta or hand- 
grasp is given standing, the priest's hand being offered 
from beneath the nasifa (see p. 33). At the conclusion 
of the sacraments, each communicant casts his klila into 
the pool. 

When I first went to Litlata, a village near Qal'at Salih, 
.Shaikh Yahya's 'souls' were a number of poor Mandaeans 
from the marshes of an inferior physical type, though 
many of the older men were extremely handsome. The 
baptisms took place, as at Amarah, in the river. The 
dravsha was erected in the yard before the priest's house, 
near sheds used, as is customary with Mandaeans, for the 
stabling of cattle at night. The ground, therefore, was 
not too clean and flies were plentiful. Beside the dravsha 
the holy books were placed on a stool, covered with a 
white cloth. While the sacraments were being adminis- 
tered, children sat round and picked lice from each 
others' tousled heads. Conditions are now much im- 
proved. 16 

In spite of what I have said of the attitude of the 
onlookers there is nothing irreverent in their intention. 
They regard the sacraments as beneficial, not only to 
their souls, but also to their bodies, since they are a protec- 
tion against the attacks of shiviahis and other evil spirits 
which bring disease, misfortune, and death. I heard 
one old dame, emerging from her third immersion and 
kept waiting, as she thought, by the priest for the 
Kushta, utter a shivering 'Talla!' which is the equivalent 
of 'Hurry up!' She was justified, for the good man was 
dragging a little so that he might pose to my camera. 
But the Mandaeans will travel a journey of many days 
and endure many privations in order to benefit by the 

1 1 8 Baptism 

sacraments, and not all the mockery of unbelievers, nor 
any hardship which besets their attendance, will prevent 
them from sharing in what they consider to be the priceless 
blessings of baptism. 17 


1. Water and souls of ancestors. See Moulton on the Fravasjns, Early 
Religious Poetry of Persia, p. 142 ; Sir J. G. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy, 
i. 191, ii. 508; and Adonis, Attis, and Osiris by the same author, pp. 76 ff. 

2. Water and Immortality. In an epic on a Tell el Amarna fragment, 
Adapa, the first man, summoned before Anu, the sky-god, is offered the 
Bread of Life and Water of Life, but Adapa, forewarned by Ea that he 
will be offered bread of death, refuses. Anu laments. He had wished to 
confer on man, to whom he had given wisdom, the greater gift of im- 
mortality, but Adapa, by his refusal, made this impossible. 

' "Water-of-Life" is often mentioned, especially in the cults of Ea and 
Marduk', writes Dr. Alfred Jeremias, from whose article on the Babylonian 
Heaven and Hell, Holle und Parodies bei den Babyloniern, I take the above 
translation (p. 29); 'that Water of Life was drunk and not only used for 
aspersion and lustration the Adapa story demonstrates' (pp. 29-30). 'The 
Euphrates and Tigris were themselves looked upon as sacred streams by 
whose waters sacrifices were made (as an historical inscription proves), and 
on the banks of which holy lustrations were performed. Ea and his son 
are the lords of the Water of Life.' 

At Ea's order, the underworld must open its spring of the immortal 
water, and in the exorcisms of sickness we read, 'Go, my son Marduk . . . 
fetch water from the mouth of the two rivers and make thy pure exorcism, 
and sanctify it with thy pure exorcism and sprinkle the man, the child of 
his God.' 

Again, 'Pure water . . . water of the Euphrates . . . water which is well 
hidden in the ocean, the pure mouth of Ea has purified it, the sons of the 
water-deeps, the seven, have made the water pure, clear and bright'. 

Repeatedly one hears of the purification vessel of Marduk. The baru- 
priest employed lustration in the river as part of his cult, especially at sun- 
rise. An 'ablution house' (corresponding perhaps to the Mandaean mandi 
a fenced-in corner of the river-bank with a cult-hut and a pit to admit 
running water from the river, which reissues through a second channel: 
(see next chapter) is mentioned in tablets relating to the cult of Shamash at 

With all this accumulative evidence, I cannot see that it is possible to 
doubt that the Mandaean water-cult, carried on at the very sites of the early 
water-cults, is at bottom an aboriginal cult, persisting under successive 
religions, and maintaining a continuous and unbroken ritual tradition. 


a. The signing with sesame 

b. Giving the piht_h_a 

Baptism 119 

3. Flowing water as a purification for ritual sin and moral fault. See 
Notes on Introduction, 3, p. xxi. That this idea was present in the older 
Persian religion appears in Al-BlrunI, p. 202 'He (Yama) ordered people 
to wash themselves with water in order to clean themselves of their sins, 
and to do so every year, that God might keep them aloof from the calamities 
of the year. . . . According to another view the cause of the washing is this 
that this day (New Year's Day) is sacred to Harudha, the angel of 
the water, who stands in relation to the water. Therefore, people rose on 
this day early, at the rising of dawn, and went to the water of aqueducts 
and wells. Frequently, too, they drew running water in a vase and poured 
it over themselves, considering this as a good omen and a means to keep 
off hurt.' 

This Harudha is probably Haurvatat, the personified spirit of Health 
and Vegetation so that the analogy to Mandaean conceptions is close. 

Herodotus draws a picture of Persian reverence to rivers and streams; 
again, it appears, an aboriginal cult. 

The Persian religion of Mithra, which spread so rapidly and powerfully 
as to be the rival of the early Christian Church, also had its immersions, 
apparently symbolical of purification of the soul; also signing of the fore- 
head and sacraments of bread and water as in the Mandaean rite. Says 
Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, p. iv, of Christianity and Mithraism, 
'The two adversaries discovered with amazement, but with no inkling of 
their origin, the similarities which united them ; and they severally accused 
the Spirit of Deception of having endeavoured to caricature the sacredness 
of their religious rites.' 

It would be impossible to give details here of what is known of lustration 
and immersion sects found radiating out from Persia and Babylon. Brandt's 
Die jiidischen Baptism en and Elchasai, and Reitzenstein's Die Vorge- 
schichte der christlichen Tattfe cover much of the ground. The bathing 
sect of the Sampsaeans is particularly suggestive, as there appears no trace 
of Christianity in this sect and the account given of their practices reveals 
close resemblance to Persian and Mandaean cults. 

Reitzenstein (pp. 203 ff.) gives accounts of Indian immersions, such as 
those at the yearly Varuna Praghasa feast and at the Soma sacrifice. Both 
have the familiar root ideas the cleansing from sin, becoming sons of light, 
and acquiring immortality. The wording of the prayer which candidates 
utter on leaving the water after the latter ceremony is strikingly Mandaean: 
'We have drunk Soma, we have become immortal, we have gone to the 

4. Water of Life. In a creation fragment in the Drasha d Yahya Hibil 
Ziwa brought yardna and laid it round Arqa d Tibil in a circle, and set a 
measurer there who measured the water and poured living water therein. 
'When the living water entered the turbid water, the living water lamented 
and wept.' 

5. These correspond exactly to the Zoroastrian Padyab, Nahn, and 

i2o Baptism 

'The first is very simple and is the work of a minute or two. It is per- 
formed without the help of a priest' (JJM., p. 91). The Nahn is the bath, 
and the Bareshnum is the long and complicated ritual which includes three 
ceremonial baths and the Ya?na ceremony, which means the partaking of 
sacramental bread (damn] and ritual beverage (haoma), with a ceremony 
close to lofani (see -pp. 225 ff.). A difference between the Nahn and the 
Mandaean tamasha is that for the latter no priest is required. 

6. The Padyab must be performed after answering calls of nature, on 
rising, and before meals (JJM., p. 93). 

7. Menstruation, (a) P arsis and Old Persian. 'Issue make the person 
whether male or female, unclean. Not only the person, but those who come 
into contact with him or her, before he or she has purified himself or herself 
with a bath, gets unclean' (JJM., p. 170). 

'It appears that in ancient Iran . . . every village or street had also a 
Dastanistan, or a house for women in menses. ... It was enjoined that 
such a place should be about 1 5 kadams (about 1 3 yards) distant from house- 
hold fire, water, and places of worship, and 3 kadams (about 2^ yards) 
distant from places frequented by men. (Vend, xvi, 2). ... They were not 
to touch anything. Anything that they touched became unclean. If they 
had their children with them, and if these children were to be taken out of 
their Dastanistan, their hands were first to be washed, and then their whole 
bodies washed with water. If a person touched a woman in her menses 
he became unclean. If he did that by chance or unintentionally, he was to 
purify himself by a bath. . . .' (JJM., pp. 171-2). 

Sir Jlvanjl describes the food prescribed for the menstruating woman 
and says, 'They were to take their meals in utensils made of metal and not 
clay or wood, because the latter, being more porous than the former, are 
likely to secrete the impurities and thus likely to do harm to the health of 
those who later on used those utensils again. Again, they are not to use 
their naked hands for eating but they are to put on dastanehs (gloves) or 
kissehs (i.e. glove-like bags) over their hands and then to eat by means of 

'On the day after that on which the issue stops, she has to purify herself 
by a bath before coming into contact with other persons and things. . . . 
Her bedding and outer clothing also were to be washed and cleaned. Those 
who came into contact with her had also to wash themselves. . . . Dastur 
Darab Pahlan, in his Persian Farziat-Nameh, gives the following injunc- 
tions, based on what he calls Pahlavi Zend and Pazend writings, (i) On 
finding the symptoms, the woman is to change at once her ordinary cloth- 
ings. (2) She is to seek a sequestered place and keep herself away from, or 
not see, water, fire, holy man, the sun, moon, sky, mountains, stars, and 
trees. (3) Whatever she sees suffers harm or diminution (jurm fj?) 
(4) While eating, she must put on her hands a piece of old cloth and eat 
with a spoon ; while drinking, she must not let a single drop of water fall 
over her body. (5) She must keep herself aloof for three to nine days and 
then wash herself with gaome z and water. (6) If she has unwittingly failed 


a. Giving the mambuha 

b. The kusJita 

Baptism 1 2 1 

to observe any of these regulations, she is to say a patet or repentance 
prayer . . .' (JJM., pp. 173 ff.). 

(b) Sdbian. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, iii, xlvii; Ch. S., 
ii, 483, mentions similar theories as to menstruation amongst the Sabians 
of Harran and says that a Sabian thought himself polluted even by wind 
which had passed over a menstruating woman. A barber on account of his 
blood-letting and hair-cutting was unclean, and 'whosoever had passed 
a razor over his body was also unclean until he had purified himself by 

(c) Jewish. Leviticus belonging to the priestly authorship, i.e. late 
in date, may well have been influenced by Persian conceptions as to un- 
cleanness. Cf. Lev. xv. 1930. 

8. See p. 43. 

9. See Chapter XL 

10. Parsis of both sexes should take a purificatory bath (Nahn) after 
sexual intercourse. 

11. For the novitiate of priests, see p. 154. 

12. See note I, Chap. i. 

13. The Rishama and the Padyab. 'The Padyab is the simplest form of 
purification or ablution which a Parsee has to go through several times 
during the day. The word Padyab is the modern form of Avesta paiti-ap 
whose Pahlavi form is padyav. It means 'throwing water (av) over (paiti) 
the exposed parts of the body'. The following is the process of the Padyab: 
There are three parts of the process, which all together are known as 
Padyab-kusti. The central or the second part is the Padyab proper, which 
is preceded and followed by a prayer. The person performing the Padyab 
says at first ... "I do this for the pleasure of Ahura Mazda". Then he 
recites the short formula of Ashem Vohu. Having recited it, he washes 
his face and the exposed portions of his body, such as the face, hands, and 
feet. This is- the Padyab proper' (JJM., p. 92). 

The Rishama resembles the Muslim ritual ablution. Like Mandaeans, 
Muslims utter a short prayer appropriate to each action. (See Wortabet's 
Religion in the East, p. 212.) These ablutions should be performed before 
each prayer-time. 

14. See pp. 205 ff. The Mandaean ritual use of myrtle is certainly akin 
to the Zoroastrian barsom rites. In modern Parsi ritual metal twigs are used, 
but in former times the twigs of a shrub or tree were employed. The Man- 
daean formula spoken when smelling myrtle or any other sweet-scented 
plant, ''riha d hiia basini 1 (the perfume of Life is well-pleasing), recalls a 
long line of ancient rituals connected with fertility and life. The pictographic 
representation of a man holding a branch to his nose was found on a pre- 
historic tablet at Warka (Published in //. Vorbericht of the Warka Excava- 
tions). Cf. Ezekiel viii. 25, describing 'abominations', i.e., sun and planet 
worship; women weeping for Tammuz, twenty-five men worshipping the 
sun towards the East 'lo, they put the branch to their nose'. 

4363 R 

122 Baptism 

Magian priests wore myrtle wreaths. Sumerians and Babylonians 
apparently held foliage before the god for the promotion of fertility. 

15. Pihtha. Zimmern ('Das vermuth, babyl. Vorbild des Pehta', &c., 
Qrientalische Studien: Theodor Noldeke zum 70. Ge hurts tag gewidmet, 
p. 959) suggests a connexion between \he.pihtha, the Mandaean sacramental 
wafer, and the Babylonian rites of pit pi ('opening of the mouth') and mis 
pi ('washing of the mouth'). Certainly, in Mandaean ritual meals for the 
dead, priestly comments on the ritual (e.g. in Alf Trisar Shiala) suggest 
that the soul of a dead person is cut off from vitality and functions until a 
ritual meal has been provided for it. Moreover, in the Sharh d Parwanaia, 
the 'dukhrana rba' or yearly mass for the dead performed at the spring 
feast, is called the Pthaha (Opening) ; and, lastly, Pthahil is the genius who 
receives the dead. But there is extremely little to prove such a theory, as 
there are constant references to 'gates'. 

1 6. The Litlata community have now built a mandi set in a pleasant 
garden, and to ensure the cleanliness of their yardna have bricked and 
bitumened the pool into which the water flows. A shelter is provided for 
spectators and a clean and well-built room in which men and women can 
change into their rastas. 

17. Professor Lietzmann (Ein Beitrag zur Mandaerfrage, p. 599) sees 
in the Syrian Christian use of the word yardna for 'font' a proof that the 
Mandaeans derive their baptism from Christian ritual. He adduces as further 
proof (ibid.) that the Syrian Church let the preliminaries of baptism take 
place while the font was empty of water and only later let in the water for 
the actual immersion. For this admitting of the water the word para is 
used. In Mandaean legend, (GR., p. 191) Manda d Hiia orders John 
to 'let the yardna flow free' and the verb is again para. Now this flow- 
ing free is necessary in the mandi-pool, and if the priest perceives that 
the water is getting sluggish, he orders a better clearing of the water 
channels, so that the water may be 'living', i.e. 'flowing free'. Lietzmann 
says 'Der gesamte Ritenkomplex der mandaischen Taufe ist eine Nach- 
bildung des Taufrituals der christlichen Syrer. Das gilt auch von der 
Bezeichnung aller Taufgewasser als "Jordan", welche man nach Lidzbarskis 
Vorgang fur uralt halt und als Beweis fur die Herkunft der Mandaer von 
einer am Jordan lebender Taufersekte anzusehen pflegt. . . . Aus allem was 
bisher dargelegt worden ist, ergibt sich folgendes: die Mandaer haben 
mit Johannes jiingern der urchristlichen Periode nichts zu tun. Vielmehr 
sind alle Johannesgeschichten in der mandaischen Literatur aus dem Neuen 
Testament und der christlichen Legende geschopft und erst in arabischer 
Zeit, also friihestens im 7. Jahrhundert, dem religiosen Bilderkreis dieser 
Sekte eingefiigt worden' (p. 601). 

That the entire John story is derived from Christian sources is possible, 
though doubtful, since, as Lidzbarski pointed out, there are such un- 
accountable omissions and differences in the Mandaean stories about 
John which occur also in the New Testament. 

The idea that the entire Mandaean sacramental liturgy is also stolen ('a 

Baptism 123 

copy of the East Syrian Christian Liturgy' is the expression used by 
Professor Lietzmann) is scarcely tenable. The Mandaean conception of 
the sacraments is nearer to that of the Zoroastrians than to that of the 
Christians, and has an essential unity lacking in the Christian rites. That in 
primitive Christian rites there was close resemblance to Mandaean and 
Zoroastrian beliefs, rituals, and liturgies is probable, but all the evidence 
goes to prove that Mandaeism and Christianity developed in different 
centres and under different influences. 

Certainly, as Brandt (Judische Baptismen\ Bousset (Hauptprobleme der 
Gnosis pp. 277-96), and Reitzenstein point out, baptism cults were spread 
so widely over a number of sects that it would be extremely difficult to say 
how each separate rite originated. The Elkasiites practised it, not only 
as a single rite, but repeatedly as a purification, like the Mandaeans. 

'Die Sitte der wiederholten Waschungen und Lustrationen ist bekannt- 
lich uralt und weltverbreitet', says Bousset. With the Essenes, (v. Josephus, 
vol. iv. p. 222) ablution was a form of baptism, for it took place before 
the daily communal meal, or if a brother had contaminated himself by 
touching another of lower grade of initiation, or at the acceptance of a 
novice as a member of the order. Other Jewish sects, such as the Hemero- 
baptists, practised ceremonial lustrations: 'We deplore your conduct, you 
who utter the Divine Name in the morning without bathing.' 

That purificatory immersions were a part of religious ritual for thousands 
of years in Iraq before the Christian era, I have already indicated. 



THE mandi) or cult-hut, called a manda or mashkhana in 
Mandaean texts, is one of the most striking features 
of present-day Mandaeism. The fact that exact rules 
as to its building and form must be observed, that the 
use of reeds and mud is enjoined for its construction (in 
a country where brick is used for important buildings, 
whether mosque, palace, or church), and, above all, the 
linking of the hut with a lustration pool of running water, 
all this seems to point to connexion with an ancient and 
primitive water-cult. Construction, proportions, materials, 
and shape are prescribed by written and oral tradition, 
and Mandaeans assure me that this is extremely ancient 
'from Adam'. It is true that a legend exists that 'before 
Yahya, the mandi was like a house of crystal, but when the 
Mandai were chased away from f Ur Shalam, they had to 
adopt a type of building easily erected'. This is the kind 
of tale they like to tell about ancient times, and, as crystal 
is often believed to be a kind of solidified water, it might 
mean an accentuation of the water-cult idea, i.e. a house 
of water. Sumerian and Babylonian representations of Ea, 
Lord of the Waters, sitting in a cabin of flowing waters 
come to mind: and Mrs. van Buren's fascinating The 
Flowing Vase and the God with Streams, which traces in 
glyptic art the cult of this god of the deep and rivers from 
archaic to neo-Babylonian times, is suggestive in this 
connexion, for it illustrates how continuous and deeply 
inherent is a religious attitude towards water in a people de- 
pendent upon rivers and floods for the fertility of their land. 
I have already discussed (pp. 10 fF.) the possible derivation 
of the word manda applied to the cult-hut. I cannot 
explain why in speech manda has become mandi^ which 
suggests the plural mandi(a). The mandi a I have seen 
vary slightly in size, but not in proportion or general 
plan. During the five days preceding Panja (the five 














THE mandi) or cult-hut, called a manda or mashkhana in 
Mandaean texts, is one of the most striking features 
of present-day Mandaeism. The fact that exact rules 
as to its building and form must be observed, that the 
use of reeds and mud is enjoined for its construction (in 
a country where brick is used for important buildings, 
whether mosque, palace, or church), and, above all, the 
linking of the hut with a lustration pool of running water, 
all this seems to point to connexion with an ancient and 
primitive water-cult. Construction, proportions, materials, 
and shape are prescribed by written and oral tradition, 
and Mandaeans assure me that this is extremely ancient 
'from Adam'. It is true that a legend exists that 'before 
Yahya, the mandi was like a house of crystal, but when the 
Mandai were chased away from f Ur Shalam, they had to 
adopt a type of building easily erected'. This is the kind 
of tale they like to tell about ancient times, and, as crystal 
is often believed to be a kind of solidified water, it might 
mean an accentuation of the water-cult idea, i.e. a house 
of water. Sumerian and Babylonian representations of Ea, 
Lord of the Waters, sitting in a cabin of flowing waters 
come to mind: and Mrs. van Buren's fascinating The 
Flowing Vase and the God witJi Streams, which traces in 
glyptic art the cult of this god of the deep and rivers from 
archaic to neo-Babylonian times, is suggestive in this 
connexion, for it illustrates how continuous and deeply 
inherent is a religious attitude towards water in a people de- 
pendent upon rivers and floods for the fertility of their land. 
I have already discussed (pp. 10 ff.) the possible derivation 
of the word manda applied to the cult-hut. I cannot 
explain why in speech manda has become mandi) which 
suggests the plural mandi(a). The mandi a I have seen 
vary slightly in size, but not in proportion or general 
plan. During the five days preceding Panja (the five 



^ff*F3 *?'" 

,;;. %p:ct" , 

The Manda or ( 

intercalary days' lu 
as defiled, because 
powers of darkness 
been able to make 
and measurements 

The mandi is ah 
has a fencing of 
essential, its purpo 
of the profane), an 
pool, placed to the 
by a water-channel, 
the water away fro 
into the fields, the 
perpetually flowing 
'cut-off' water. 1 

Both hut and p 
mud wall (tof) wh 
During the immei 
sacraments, the wl 
erected on the ban! 
of the hut. 

The hut is a sim 
(buwart) daubed w 
usual dwellings of 
Ma'dan Arabs of 1 
betokens the dese 
Solubba or Kauliy^ 
say the nomad an< 
semi-settled tribes] 
are built entirely 
camel-owning tribe 
the black, woollen 
once uses the reec 
cloth, as in the cas< 
settled during the 
town of Iraq, from 
reed-huts inhabite 
and a floating popi 
dairy produce, fow 

The Manda or Cult-h 

intercalary days' lustratior 
as defiled, because these 
powers of darkness. Duri 
been able to make exact < 
and measurements of the ; 

The mandi is always bi 
has a fencing of reeds 
essential, its purpose is tc 
of the profane), and is in\ 
pool, placed to the south c 
by a water-channel, anoth< 
the water away from the 
into the fields, the object 
perpetually flowing, and 
'cut-off' water. 1 

Both hut and pool are 
mud wall (tof) which pas 
During the immersion a 
sacraments, the white sill 
erected on the bank of the 
of the hut. 

The hut is a simple com 
(buwar?) daubed with mu< 
usual dwellings of the inh 
Ma'dan Arabs of the sou 
betokens the desert Ara 
Solubba or Kauliyah (gips 
say the nomad and herds 
semi-settled tribesman. *! 
are built entirely of ree< 
camel-owning tribes of the 
the black, woollen tent, 
once uses the reed-mat ii 
cloth, as in the case of the 
settled during the past fift 
town of Iraq, from Baghd 
reed-huts inhabited by J 
and a floating population 
dairy produce, fowls, or si 

r Cult-Hut ', known as the Mandi 125 

lustration feast) the mandi is looked upon 
ise these five days are dedicated to the 
:ss. During these days, therefore, I have 
ke exact observations as to the structure 
ts of the mandiy and to take photographs, 
always built on a river-bank (see Fig. 7), 
reeds or a mud wall round it (not 
pose is to screen the rites from the eyes 
and is invariably linked with a lustration 
ic south of the hut and fed from the river 
el, another channel (Plate 1 9) conveying 
Tom the mandi and back to the river or 
he object being that the water shall be 
ing, and the pool hold 'living' and not 

pool are enclosed by the reed fence or 
vhich passes over both water-channels, 
icrsion ceremonies with the subsequent 
white silk banner, dravsha (drabsha), is 
nk of the pool to the south-east and right 

imple construction of reeds and reed-mats 
with mud. Reed-huts (or saraif) are the 
Df the inhabitants of the marshes, and the 
>f the south ; whereas the black hair tent 
ssert Arab, or such wanderers as the 
iyah (gipsies) (Mandaean naiir), that is to 
md herdsman rather than the settled or 
esman. The villages of the marsh-Arab 
y of reeds, whereas the shepherd and 
^bes of the waterless desert use exclusively 
en tent. If a nomad tribe settles, it at 
:ed-mat instead of the woven wool tent- 
ase of the Beni Tamim, who have become 
e past fifteen years. Almost any southern 
m Baghdad downwards, has a suburb of 
ited by jellahin (agricultural labourers) 
)pulation of Ma'dan Arabs who bring in 
>wls, or sheep to town markets. 

126 The Manda or Cult-Hut ; , known as the Mandi 

There are several types of reed huts, the most common 
being the kukh, the supporting framework of which is 
bundles of reeds tied and bound together at the top so as 
to form half-hoops. This is used almost exclusively in 
the marshes. The next type is the jemali, which is more 
permanent and weather-proof in character, and differs in 
construction. A ridge-pole is supported, either by two 
forked poles or by two bundles of reeds, each split at one 
end into a fork. 2 The ridge-pole gives the reed-matting 
thrown over it its main support, and the roof slopes down, 
therefore, steeply to the low side walls, the end walls being 
higher, as in an English thatched cottage. The walls 
consist of standing bundles of thick reeds (qasab) bound 
tightly together by thinner split reeds softened by 
immersion (bardi\ or ropes made of rushes, with cross- 
wise bundles fastened transversely to the uprights. The 
reed-matting which covers both roof and walls is often 
daubed with mud, and the walls in more permanent 
communities undergo a logical development and are 
built of liban (mud) instead of reeds. The semi-nomad 
then becomes a house-dweller. 

The jemali grows increasingly common the nearer one 
approaches to Basrah, or to any Persian border, and in 
Southern Iran it is almost universal. I am told that the 
'thatched cottage' type of hut with reed roof, or reed roof 
reinforced by rough thatching above four mud walls, is 
found in numbers near the Caspian Sea, where travellers 
are reminded of the thatched cob cottages of Devon. The 
pent roof may have been devised so that snow can slide 
off on to the ground. 

The mandi is of the jemali type, which suggests an 
Iranian origin. It is oblong in shape, the north and south 
walls being the long walls, and is built so that a person 
entering the small opening in the middle of the south 
wall will face the North Star, towards which a person 
should direct his gaze when praying. The door-opening is 
narrow, only about 14 inches wide, and is about 60 to 65 
inches high. The top of the entrance is narrower, and the 
mud with which the reed substructure is plastered is 

















The Manda or Cult-Hut ^ known as the Mandi 127 

moulded into a rough triple arch. A mandi should also 
have a triple moulding about its entire south face called 
the misra, but this is not invariably made. The ridge-pole 
projecting from the mandi is supported by two strong 
bundles of reeds daubed with mud, and in the case of the 
two mandia which I first examined the ridge-pole projecting 
from the building had further support in the shape of two 
poles, forked at the top to receive it. These supporting 
poles, of olive-wood, were some inches away from the 
actual reed-supports, and were entirely clear of the building 
itself, for the ridge-pole, which runs east and west, was 
longer than the hut. The dimensions may differ, but, 
Mandaeans inform me, the number of reed bundles may 
not vary. The verticals from the ground to the ridge-pole 
(ardhanaf on the east and west sides of the mandi (includ- 
ing the verticals in which the ardhana lies) are called 
shebab (sing, shebbah^ the ordinary marsh-Arab word for a 
bundle of reeds). The ahtdr or horizontals up to the pole 
are seven in number, so that there are forty-two in all. 
The two upright bundles or shebab which support the 
ridge-pole are also called tikm (sing, tikmafi). The part 
of the tikmah which projects from the plastered face of the 
wall measures about 57 centimetres. The photograph 
of the mandi at Litlata illustrates the manner in which 
the cross-pieces are used. The slanting supports visible in 
the north and south walls of the Litlata mandi are called 
gadfi, wings ; or, in Arabic ajnah, and are seven in number, 
four slanting north and three south. 

The interior of the mandi shows its construction even 
better than the exterior, but I was unable to take a photo- 
graph owing to the absence of light. From within one 
sees that beneath the reed-matting (bariyah, plur. bawar'i) 
there is a layer of stout reeds bound loosely together with 
string so as to keep them in place (the string being twisted 
round each reed but not tied), a fabric which recalls the 
reed-screens made by nomad women to shut off their 
part of the tent from the men's. Across this at right 
angles, on both slanting sides of the roof, are placed seven 
bundles of reeds, and athwart these again three long 

128 The Manda or Cult-Hut : , known as the Mandi 

bundles run from east to west. There is no window and 
no inner decoration. The only detail to be noticed in the 
interior is the presence of two pegs called shugdsa which 
project, like a V placed sideways, from each tikmah at the 
east and west ends of the structure. The point of the V is 
not closed, and I was told that the object of the pegs was 
to provide support for a dish or for clothes. 

No iron or nail is employed in the building at all, but 
that may have no ritual significance, since the same might 
be said of any reed hut in the marshes. The only lighting 
is from the door, and there is no interior decoration or 
floor covering. 

The hut-interior is not used for any cult in which lay- 
men take part and even the zidqa brikha, or solemn eating 
for the dead, takes place without its walls, though within 
the enclosure. 

The pool is usually reached by a rough step, so that the 
candidate for ablution may step up and down without 
difficulty. It is deeper at one end, so that children and 
adults can find the depth suited to their height. 

The hut must be re-consecrated yearly after the 
pollution caused by the five days preceding Panja (which 
are dedicated to the five powers of darkness), and this 
ceremony takes place before the last day of Panja (or 
Parwanaia). I was in Qal'at Salih twice when the re- 
consecration took place. The first time I saw the cere- 
mony (called in the ratna Tarasa d mandi) in part and the 
second time I witnessed it practically from beginning to 
end, the complete tarasa lasting from twelve to eighteen 
hours without a break. 4 

On each occasion, although I was in my place of 
observation within the mandi enclosure at an early hour, 
I was too late to observe the preliminaries, which consisted 
of the sweeping and cleaning of the enclosure and the 
tidying of the banks of the pool. The mandi hut had been 
replastered with fresh mud moulded over the door so 
as to form a triple arch, rounded at the top. As this 
appears well in my illustrations, I need not describe 
it further. To the right of the mandi were planted two 


a. Jem ali type hut, near Basrah, with clay walls 

b . Mandi at Litlata 


The Manda or Cult-Hut \ known as the Mandi 129 

dravshas, or ritual banners, and beside them the clay table 
(toriana) with its usual furniture, and a fire on the ground, 
constantly replenished with lustrated reeds. The ground 
in front of the hut was prepared by a barefoot attendant. 
He made shallow furrows or runnels about 3 inches wide 
(known as misrt) from the cult-hut down to the pool, the 
loose earth being placed in a basket and removed. The 
first furrow ran from the right door-post, the second from 
the left door-post, the third was to the right of the first, 
the fourth ran from the southern corner of the east wall, 
and the fifth from the southern corner of the west wall. 
These furrows or runnels went down in straight lines, and 
a careful order was evidently observed. Lastly, he traced 
a furrow horizontally from the third to the fourth runnel, 
leaving an almost square patch by the hut (marked B in my 
roughly sketched plan). These furrows or misri (sing. 
misra) enclose purified areas, and should a chance impurity 
pollute one of the sections enclosed by them, it can be 
re-purified independently of the others. Nothing could 
be closer to the karsha of the Parsis, and the enclosed area 
corresponds to thepavi. 5 Such a chance pollution occurred 
the second time that I watched the ceremony. A small 
child stepped over the misra. An officiating priest im- 
mediately went back into the pool, and after ablution 
ceremonies performed on himself, soused the spot by 
throwing bowlfuls of water over it, while repeating a 
formula of purification. 

Pots, bowls, tongs, mill-stones, basins, pestle and 
mortar (hawan\ knives (haftless) used during the cere- 
mony were taken within the purified areas after having 
been immersed three times in the pool with the usual 
'Bahrain' formula (see p. 49). The white muslin cloth 
(new) used for sifting the wheat flour was also immersed, 
and even a needle (at which point in the ritual this was 
used I could not discover). 

A ganzibra, two priests, and two shgandas took part in 
the tarasa, but the ganzibra (Shaikh Ruml) was not 
throughout the chief officiant; towards the end of the 
proceedings he played the role of a dead man, for the 

4363 e 

130 The Manda or Cult-Hut ^ known as the Mandl 

tarasa must be 'in the name' of a risk *ama (see p. 173), 
in this case in the name of one Bahram Yahya, great- 
great-grandfather of Shaikh Ruml himself, so that he was 
personating his own ancestor. 6 (The risJi ( ama must be 
of the highly honoured priestly family of 'Manduiia'.) 
For this reason he put on later a completely new rasta, for 
(as will be seen presently when I describe lofani rites) 
those who represent the dead must wear new ritual gar- 
ments. The chief officiant, next to the ganzibra, was a 
priest, Shaikh 'Abdullah, who had been through his 
ablution and sacraments at dawn, and my arrival at the 
mandi found him performing the elaborate ceremonies 
which qualified him to play his part, which was, first, to 
administer the five sacraments to the ganzibra^ fellow 
priest, and the two shgandas. The usual preliminaries for 
an officiating priest followed : the making of the myrtle 
wreath, the dedication and arrangement of the garments, 
placing of the pandama before the mouth, and so on. 
Shaikh 'Abdullah then baptized in turn the ganzibra^ his 
fellow priest, and the two shgandas, and when all were 
assembled on the bank in their wet garments, the 'signing' 
with crushed sesame followed, the difference from the 
usual sacrament being that the priest and ganzibra joined 
the officiant in intoning prayers throughout instead of 
observing silence like laymen, or like the shgandas. 
Shaikh 'Abdullah then daubed a small recess or niche in 
the eastern exterior wall of the mandi with fresh wet mud, 
filled his qanina^ and sprinkled the wall with water from 
the pool. He next made the -pehtha (sacramental bread). 
Taking a handful of flour and salt, he went to the pool, 
kneaded it with a little water in his palm, then plunged 
the closed fist containing the dough together with his 
other hand into the water. Returning, he placed the 
dough, patted into a round, on the fire (which was con- 
tinually fed by washed reeds), setting it on the hot ashes 
and covering it with burning fuel. In a few moments it 
was baked. He put some morsels of it in the recess referred 
to above, and then administered the sacraments of bread 
and water to the four communicants. Again, the proceeding 

The Manda or Cult-Hut ; known as the Mandi 131 

differed from the usual administration to laymen, for 
the pehtha and mambuha were given one after the other to 
each individual at one time, instead of making two rounds 
of it. The blessing was next given, and the celebrant 
moved backwards and forwards along the line several 
times, placing his hand on each head. Later came the 
usual oath to the yardna, the communicants stretching 
their right arms out behind them in the direction of the 
river, not the pool (this is an invariable rule, as the river 
although it feeds the pool, may in its twistings lie in any 
direction, while the mandi must always be on the right 
bank facing the north with its pool to the south of it). 
Throughout the baptism and sacraments the celebrant 
alone covered his face with the pandama, but the ganzibra 
and priest retained their staves (margnas). Then all stood, 
and those of priestly rank began to recite, the shgandas 
remaining silent. The usual final kushta or hand-grasp 
was given to the officiant, who thereupon ate -pehth_a and 
drank mambuha. The long prayers and ceremonies fol- 
lowed which release the various parts of the rasta from 
the special sanctity given them by their consecration in the 
initial ceremonies. The ganzibra and priest joined in 
these, and when Was and taghas were removed the former 
(the myrtle wreaths) were thrown into the water. 

Thus ended what might be termed the first chapter of 
the ceremonies. The second part showed the priests in 
the role of slaughterers, millers, cooks, and bakers, and the 
sacred areas within the misri became the scene of busy 

In the temporary lull, I observed that all pots and pans 
which had been ceremonially dipped before being taken 
into the misri had been previously re-tinned, inside and 
out, for they lay gleamingly white on the ground. 

The ganzibra prepared for his labours by removing his 
turban and stole, and flinging them on the roof of the mandi, 
thus showing his long hair looped in small plaits close 
to his head. The two priests partly disrobed, and all set 
to work to brush the sections divided by the misri, sweep- 
ing all loose fragments of clay and rubbish into the pool. 

132 The Manda or Cult-Hut ; , known as the Mandi 

Three balls of clay, almost round, were left, however, in 
section A, and these were used later, I suppose, to support 
dishes put on the fire (i.e. manaslb in Arabic), but I forgot 
to inquire their purpose. They can be seen in the photo- 
graph. The ganzibra now changed his rasta, piece by 
piece, for a new rasta, and having done this, went into the 
pool, ducked under three times, and then, taking a dish, 
hurled water from it all over the mandi^ reciting prayers 
as he did so. The outer walls and roof were thus all 
washed, but the north wall did not receive as much 
attention as the others, though water ran down upon it 
from above. Meanwhile the ganzibra was pronouncing 
the name of the Life and Manda d Hiia upon his labours : 
'Ushma d Hei wushma Manda-t-hei madkhar "illakTi . 

Next, standing upon the threshold of the hut but not 
entering it, he splashed the interior with water from his 
dish or basin. A larger tinned basin was washed, filled 
from the pool, and that done, the ganzibra entered the hut, 
and dipping water from the larger basin, he soused the 
mandi thoroughly within, standing upon the already 
wetted floor. Roof, beams, and every part received 
liberal ablution. 

A ritual text inscribed with a stylus upon sheets of lead 
was now brought into the enclosure. It was wrapped in 
a white cloth, and the bundle plunged three times beneath 
the water. This text contains the masiqta (service for the 
ascension of the souls of the dead) and the ritual for 
the zidqa brikha, both offices being recited during the 
subsequent proceedings. Meanwhile, the ganzibra and 
priests continued to wash the mandi> the former within 
and the latter without. 

Next, a shganda took from outside a bundle of freshly 
peeled reeds, and these received the threefold immersion, 
as did wheat and sesame and various other grains brought 
in white cloths, like the reeds and wood employed on the fire. 
So that no purified celebrant should come into touch with 
impurity, fuel was floated across the pool, and each time 
that any actor within the misri came into chance contact 
with anything from without, he had to immerse three 


sT *~ 1 ' -mnu_ "* *^v. 

,-^.*r^ . '^aSr 

s-,r V4/ , ^'-^v K. - ^ 

a. The lustration of facade 

b. The cleansed mandi 

1 3 2 The Manda or Cult-Hut^ known as the Mandt 

Three balls of clay, almost round, were left, however, in 
section A, and these were used later, I suppose, to support 
dishes put on the fire (i.e. manastb in Arabic), but I forgot 
to inquire their purpose. They can be seen in the photo- 
graph. The ganztbra now changed his rasta, piece by 
piece, for a new rasta, and having done this, went into the 
pool, ducked under three times, and then, taking a dish, 
hurled water from it all over the mandi, reciting prayers 
as he did so. The outer walls and roof were thus all 
washed, but the north wall did not receive as much 
attention as the others, though water ran down upon it 
from above. Meanwhile the ganzibra was pronouncing 
the name of the Life and Manda d Hiia upon his labours : 
'U shin a d Hei wushina Manda-t-hei madkhar 'illakti . 

Next, standing upon the threshold of the hut but not 
entering it, he splashed the interior with water from his 
dish or basin. A larger tinned basin was washed, filled 
from the pool, and that done, the ganzibra entered the hut, 
and dipping water from the larger basin, he soused the 
mandi thoroughly within, standing upon the already 
wetted floor. Roof, beams, and every part received 
liberal ablution. 

A ritual text inscribed with a stylus upon sheets of lead 
was now brought into the enclosure. It was wrapped in 
a white cloth, and the bundle plunged three times beneath 
the water. This text contains the masiqta (service for the 
ascension of the souls of the dead) and the ritual for 
the zldqa brikha, both offices being recited during the 
subsequent proceedings. Meanwhile, the ganzibra and 
priests continued to wash the mandi, the former within 
and the latter without. 

Next, a shganda took from outside a bundle of freshly 
peeled reeds, and these received the threefold immersion, 
as did wheat and sesame and various other grains brought 
in white cloths, like the reeds and wood employed on the fire. 
So that no purified celebrant should come into touch with 
impurity, fuel was floated across the pool, and each time 
that any actor within the nrisri came into chance contact 
with anything from without, he had to immerse three 


if. The lustration of facade 

h. The cleansed man ill 

The Manda or Cult-Hut '; known as the Mandl 133 

times. The wet wood and grain (the latter spread out on 
the white cloths upon the roof of the mandt) dried quickly 
in the sun and wind. I noticed that the ganzibra and 
priests ate now and again from the grain and fruit, for 
they had been fasting but for the sacred bread and water, 
and might not emerge from the misri for any profane 
purpose. A fire was lit in space A, the reeds being kindled 
by a lighted reed thrust in from without the area. One of 
the washed bundles of reeds was carried within the hut, 
to be used later for the brihis (incense braziers). Now the 
priests worked at the preparing of the food, baking bread 
in flat loaves on the reversed side of a shallow bowl. The 
five sacred foods brought for the masiqta which was later 
to be performed in the mandi hut were : 

1. Pomegranate seeds. 

2. Coconut. 

3. Quince. 

4. Walnuts. 

5. Raisins, or fresh white grapes when in season. 
Besides this there were the 'fruits and vegetables in 

season' ordered by the ritual for the xidqa brikha and the 
dates, sesame, and salt, whose uses will be presently 

At this point, having been present for more than four 
hours, I was absent for three-quarters of an hour. In the 
interval various operations were in process. The wheat 
was being milled within the mandi, prior to making the 
dough which is used for the masiqta. In addition, the 
priests were baking small flat loaf after small flat loaf over 
the fire, eating to stay their hunger. The raisins and pome- 
granate seeds were placed on a reed dish for their ablution, 
and then dried in the sun, so were the other foods intended 
for the masiqta and the zidqa brikha. The sesame was 
cooked a little over the fire, its husk was removed, and 
it was then placed in a mortar (hawan) and pounded, 
together with some dates; then the mixture was placed 
by a priest in a corner of his robe, little by little, and 
squeezed with a pair of iron tongs, the resultant liquid 
(misjui) falling into a keptha^ and being later transferred to a 

1 34 The Manda. or Cult-Hut ^ known as the Mandi 

qanina. It is this mixed juice of sesame and date which is 
used later in the signing of the fatiri (the loaves of the 
masiqta). Only a few drops were extracted from each 
handful, so that it was a tedious process; nevertheless, they 
told me, in the year preceding, the priest had succeeded in 
extracting enough to fill the qanina. 

On my return, preparations for the masiqta were in 
progress. A dove of the khirrah species, whole,, male, 
perfect, and especially bred for the purpose, 7 was being 
held by a small boy outside the consecrated areas, and I 
found myself obliged to reprimand him for teasing the 
bird. The bundle of white cloth containing the ritual 
text inscribed upon lead was opened, one of the lead 
sheets extracted and placed upright and face outwards 
against the mandi wall within the square marked B. 

The ganzibra now reappeared in an entirely new and 
dazzlingly white rasta, and underwent the threefold 
immersion in the pool. On emerging, he prayed silently 
in the square B. A curious feature of the dove-sacrifice for 
a masiqta is that not a word must be uttered aloud either 
by the celebrant or the shganda who assists him. 8 

The latter, with the dove, the knife to be used in its 
sacrifice, the stick to be held with the knife, and a sprig of 
myrtle clasped to his right shoulder, goes down into the 
pool, and plunges under three times before joining the 
ganzibra in B and taking up a position to the east of him. 
Facing the mandi (i.e. the north), crouching and holding 
the dove so that in cutting its throat the knife moved from 
north to south, the ganzibra performed the silent sacrifice 
of the bird. As always, the slaughterer held a stick of wood 
with the knife. I was told that at this sacrifice theganzi&ra, 
holding the dove by its wings, steadies the body of the 
bird with his bare right foot. I have since acquired a 
manuscript describing the ritual, and find that this use of 
the right foot in slaughtering the dove is prescribed. 

The body of the dove and the knife were taken by the 
shganda to the pool and immersed thrice, the stick being 
allowed to float away on the slowly flowing waters. He 
then rejoined the ganzibra in the square of the sacrifice 



A. "N 

. Reed 

: enclosure of 

manda area 

* Entrance bo 
. enclosure 



A, B, and C. Sections divided by misri. 

E. Doorway of Manda. 

D. Dravshas. 

H. Place of burial of dove and fatiri. 

a, b, c, d, e, and f are the misri, or furrows. 


o/ vood 

yaile rafter 
msctr of 
fetd kindle* 

corner post 

2 wa.ll teatits 
made of reed 

z . Elevation 

side facing North 

ltgrOf e/ Mttiny /' f 

of o/ivtwood 


rnaif o/rrrel twdltt 
datittrd vriih clay 

center poit 

ridye beam 
eaves beam 


side facing I 

fm , /T/ff/ //-fi 




/f x jf* 




__ corner post 
of rtrcf bundles 
. davit d with ctay 





of reecl buadla - 
daubed mth clay 

? wall beams 
of reed bundles'^ 
iaubed mth day 





,''' ' ^i^r- "^~^| j 


/'* / 





tatra/tce deer' 



Cross section throuqp 
along line A-A ^ 

Horizontal section 
through building 

cortier ptui 

of refd 

iafiufeaf vith clay 

rit/yf tea 
gj Support 

Enlarged sectioji 
through rooj 


fatal teaf/t of ioitdl/ig- ft' 6" 

FIG. 8. 

^ . Sacrifice of the 

b. Pounding of the dates and s( 



ce of the dove 

ites and sesame {foreground} 

The Manda or Cult-Hut., known as the Mandt 135 

and both left it together. The ganzibra, -taking the body 
of the dove, put a little salt on the wound, and passed the 
cut throat three times into the flame of a burning (and 
previously lustrated) bundle of reeds held by the shganda, 
after which the corpse was taken inside the mandi by the 
ganzibra and the two priests, all three washing their hands 
before entry into the hut. 

The ritual of the masiqta within the mandi is identical 
with that of the masiqta performed at the consecration of a 
priest described in a later chapter. For a description of 
this, and other masiqta?,, I have been dependent upon the 
priests, as none but they are allowed within the cult-hut 
for its performance. The consecration of the sixty-six 
fatiri, the solemn eating of the tabutha with the dove's 
flesh, the drinking of hamra, and the final burial of the 
remains of the dove and the sixty-six fatiri (sacred bread) 
with their sacred morsels are all hidden from profane eyes, 
and the only ceremony that I saw was the completion of 
the interment of the bundle which contained them in a 
space to the north-west of the mandi. It is never buried 
beyond the east wall of the mandi-hut, and a fresh spot 
is always chosen. What happens when all the ground 
has been used I do not know: as this cannot happen for 
many years, perhaps earlier interments are forgotten, or 
another mandi consecrated. The differences between the 
ganzibra's masiqta and that of the shwalia are described 
more nearly in the last chapter, on 'Eating for the Dead', 
also the exact nature of the zidqa brikha which I witnessed 
so dimly by the light of candles. But the zidqa brikha and 
the final burial were at the end of a long day's work, and 
it is my task here to describe what I actually witnessed. 

The second victim, whose fat was to be used in the 
zidqa brikha, was a sheep which had been waiting some 
time outside the consecrated area, but inside the mandi 
enclosure. The priests quitted the mandi, leaving the 
ganzibra alone with the dead dove and a shganda. His voice 
was heard chanting from the dark interior. The priests 
chanted, too, but busied themselves with the second 
victim and preparations for its slaughter. A bundle of 

136 The Manda or Cult-Hut L , known as the Mandi 

reeds were shortened, taken into the pool and thoroughly 
washed, then laid on division c making a couch of reeds 
(cfnbasha or kibasha) upon which the victim was to be laid. 
(I witnessed another slaughter of a sheep for lo/ani, and 
the victim was laid on a bed of green palm-branches at 
the side of the river, with a misra trenched about the 
spot in a square, the trenches running down into the 
river.) 9 

The sheep (a male, for no female must be slaughtered) 
was thrown on its side outside the misri, its feet tied to- 
gether, and a hallali proceeded to clean its legs and feet. 
I was informed that, previous to its entry into the mandi 
enclosure, the animal had been induced to evacuate all 
that was in its bowels by means of a reed introduced into 
the anus, so that it might not defile the ground. The 
washing of the feet was so thorough and minute that it 
took about ten minutes, and after that, the tail and liyah 
(fatty base of the tail characteristic of the local species), 
and all the wool of the hinder parts were washed with equal 
scrupulousness. Meanwhile, a priest was washing and 
scrubbing the leaden sheets of the ritual text (defiled, 
I presume, by the slaughter of the dove). It was at this 
point that the profanation of the misri by a child, mentioned 
earlier, temporarily interrupted proceedings except as 
regarded the ganzibra inside the mandi. The untoward 
episode terminated, the hallali lifted the sheep and bore 
it with him into the pool, plunged himself and the sheep 
below the surface three times, and, staggering out with 
difficulty, for the wet sheep with its unshorn fleece was 
heavy, he placed it on the reeds with its head to the east 
and its tail to the west. The knife was washed with the 
usual formula, the bond of rushes which secured the sheaf 
of reeds was cut so that the reeds flattened out, and a large 
dish was placed beneath the throat of the animal to catch 
its blood. Shaikh 'Abdullah, the priest detailed for the 
slaughter, performed his rishama, splashed water over his 
staff, touched each part of his rasta in consecration, and 
placed the tagha and klila on his head with the usual 
prayers. Silk taghas must be worn at Panja. 



a. The slaughter of the sheep 

b. In foreground, a priest bakes meat. In background, the ganzibra prays silently 

before sacrificing the dove 


136 The Manda or Cult-Hut^ known as the Mandi 

reeds were shortened, taken into the pool and thoroughly 
washed, then laid on division c making a couch of reeds 
(chibasha or kibash_a) upon which the victim was to be laid. 
(I witnessed another slaughter of a sheep for lofani, and 
the victim was laid on a bed of green palm-branches at 
the side of the river, with a misra trenched about the 
spot in a square, the trenches running down into the 
river.) 9 

The sheep (a male, for no female must be slaughtered) 
was thrown on its side outside the misri, its feet tied to- 
gether, and a hallali proceeded to clean its legs and feet. 
I was informed that, previous to its entry into the mandi 
enclosure, the animal had been induced to evacuate all 
that was in its bowels by means of a reed introduced into 
the anus, so that it might not defile the ground. The 
washing of the feet was so thorough and minute that it 
took about ten minutes, and after that, the tail and Hyali 
(fatty base of the tail characteristic of the local species), 
and all the wool of the hinder parts were washed with equal 
scrupulousness. Meanwhile, a priest was washing and 
scrubbing the leaden sheets of the ritual text (defiled, 
I presume, by the slaughter of the dove). It was at this 
point that the profanation of the misri by a child, mentioned 
earlier, temporarily interrupted proceedings except as 
regarded the ganzibra inside the mandi. The untoward 
episode terminated, the hallali lifted the sheep and bore 
it with him into the pool, plunged himself and the sheep 
below the surface three times, and, staggering out with 
difficulty, for the wet sheep with its unshorn fleece was 
heavy, he placed it on the reeds with its head to the east 
and its tail to the west. The knife was washed with the 
usual formula, the bond of rushes which secured the sheaf 
of reeds was cut so that the reeds flattened out, and a large 
dish was placed beneath the throat of the animal to catch 
its blood. Shaikh 'Abdullah, the priest detailed for the 
slaughter, performed his rishama, splashed water over his 
staff, touched each part of his rasta in consecration, and 
placed the tagha and klila on his head with the usual 
prayers. Silk taghas must be worn at Panja. 


e- ^ffV^ 
J^jT'-,*.- "**" 

jn, r ^ 

. 'I'hc slaughter of the sheep 

Tn foreground, a priest bakes meat. In background, the ganxibra prays silently 

before sacrificing the dove 


The Manda or Cult-Hut l , known as the Mandt 1 37 

Meanwhile, the other priest and shganda were ex- 
changing pleasantries with the onlookers. The shganda 
stood by Shaikh 'Abdullah as witness to the slaughter (for 
at every slaughter a witness is necessary). Shaikh 
'Abdullah squatted to the south of the victim, facing the 
north, and cut its throat, murmuring into its right ear as 
he bent over it : 

(Pronunciation) i Bushma d Hei, ushma ad Manda-t-Hei madkhar 
illakh. Pthahil qariakh^ Hiwel Ziwa paqad illakh miniksakh besrakh 
dakki^ kul men ad akhil menakh nihiyi nitessi nitqayyam ushmi ad Hei 
wushma ad Manda-t-Hei madkhar illakh.'' 

(Translation) 'In the Name of the Life! The name of Manda d 
Hiia is pronounced upon thee. Pthahil calls thee; Hibil Ziwa 
ordered thy slaughter. Thy flesh is pure; everyone who eats of it 
shall live, shall be made healthful, shall be established. The name 
of the Life and the name of Manda d Hiia are mentioned upon thee.' 

The knife, like all sacrificial knives or ritual knives 
used by Mandaeans, was of iron, and was heated red-hot 
in a fire after the slaughter was complete, so as to purify it 
absolutely. The customary small stick, about 6 inches in 
length, was held with it when the throat was cut. This 
slaughter-stick may be of olive, tamarisk, willow, mul- 
berry, or any 'clean' wood. 'It is forbidden to slaughter 
with parzla (iron) only,' is the only explanation of this 
custom which I have ever received from the priests. 10 As 
before, at the slaughter of the dove, both stick and knife 
were taken down to the pool, Shaikh 'Abdullah descending 
into the water to purify himself. He took off his clothes, 
all but the sharwala, then immersed himself three times, 
rubbing the shirt in the water to remove blood-stains, 
and while the knife, too, was washed carefully, the stick was 
allowed to float away. 

The formula during the purification is: 

(Pronunciation) ''Ushma ad Hei ushma ad Manda-t-hei madkhar 
illey neksit ib parz/a y halilit byardna ana nakasa^ marey hayasa 
ushruley ushwuqley (shbuqlai] hattai hovey (hubai) eskhilathey tuqlathey 
shabshathey diley^ dp/an bar dplana (the names of the officiant 
and his mother), ushma ad Hei ushma ad Manda-t-hei madkhar 


138 T/ie Manda or Cult-Hut , known as the Mandi 

(Translation) 'The name of the Life and the name of Manda d 
Hiia be pronounced upon me. I have slaughtered with iron, I have 
purified myself in the yardna. I am a slaughterer, my lord, pardon ! 
Absolve me and free me from my sin, my trespass, my follies, my 
errors, and my evil deeds, mine, So-and-So son of So-and-So. The 
name of the Life and the name of Manda d Hiia be pronounced 
upon me.' 

It will be noticed that no purely /zg^/-names are invoked 
in this prayer: the sin incurred is a sin against the Great 
Life through the taking of life. 

Water from the pool was also poured on the throat of 
the dying sheep, and the priest's wet clothes flung on to 
the mandi roof to dry. When the sheep had gasped its 
last breath, a torch of burning reeds was brought and 
applied to its throat. Its four feet and the head were cut 
off and placed in a dish, and the business of skinning and 
cutting up was begun by the now semi-naked slaughterer, 
aided by one of the shgandi. The wool was first shorn 
away, then a little of the fat cut off and put inside the 
mandi for the zidqa brikha. The whole business was per- 
formed on the bed of reeds, and at times the priest washed 
his hands. A log of wood was floated across the pool 
towards him from without the misri^ and, after this had 
received its threefold immersion, it was used as a chopping 
block for the meat. While these lengthy operations were 
in process, the ganzibra emerged again from the mandi> 
performed the rishama^ and filled two qaninas from the 
pool, taking one within and placing the other by the right 
doorpost of the mandi. Followed by a shganda, he again 
disappeared within the mandi^ only to issue once in 
answer to a shouted suggestion about the ritual from a 
priest (not an officiant), who sat outside the misri. This 
priest, who had a roll of the Sharh d Parwanaia in his 
hand, had a criticism to make about the way in which the 
ritual was proceeding. Interruptions of this nature are 
never resented. A passage from the roll was read, dis- 
cussed, and the matter settled, and then the ganzibra 
returned to his incantations within the mandi. The second 
priest officiating, Shaikh Faraj, had also by now divested 

The Manda or Cult-Hut ', known as the Mandi 139 

himself of all his rasta but his sharwala (drawers), dipped 
under three times in the pool, washed his rasta^ put on his 
wet shirt and washed the sharwala separately, and then hung 
them and the rest of his rasta above the smoky fire to dry. 

The roasting of the meat followed. Small portions of 
flesh were put in a dish, dipped in salt and then laid as they 
were on the fire. After a while, the pieces were removed, 
laid again in salt, and put on a second dish. The result, 
scorched morsels covered with ashes and salt, looked most 
unappetizing. Flies were soon busy on the meat, and, as 
the precautions as to ritual cleanliness had been so scrupu- 
lous, I asked about the flies, which certainly had not 
undergone the threefold ablution. 

They smiled. 'We know, but how can we help it ? What 
the air brings, willow-down' [the cotton-like down fell at 
every puff of wind like snow from the willow trees which 
grew in the mandi enclosure], 'dust, or flies, we cannot 
help. In any case, flies have no blood, and it is creatures 
which have blood which are unclean.' 

Now and again a priest or shganda ate a morsel of the 
roasted meat. The skin, wool, and some of the uncooked 
meat were conveyed outside the mandi^ and the offal was 
taken by a woman to be cast into the river. When the whole 
chopping and cooking were over, the blood-stained log and 
reeds were brought to the fire and used as fuel by degrees. 

The third act was now ready to begin, and the two 
priests clothed themselves in their complete rastas, washed 
their margnas, and, summoned by the ganzibra who came 
out to fill three qaninas with water, they all three entered 
the hut for the reading of the rahmi and the rest of the 
masiqta described in the next chapter (see pp. 1 56 ff.). The 
sound of their intoning voices droned on for a long time : 
the afternoon became dusk and then night. From time to 
time, from outside, I caught a glimpse of swaying bodies 
as they read the long liturgies. 

At last came the final act, the solemn zidqa brikha in 
the. name of the dead risk *ama. It was dimly seen by the 
light of the still burning fire and of two lanterns suspended 
on sticks. The ganzibra and two priests emerged from 

1 40 The Manda or Cult-Hut '; known as the Mandl 

the hut, crossed the misri and took their place by the two 
dravshas planted in the ground of the eastern end of the 
enclosure. First they swept the ground. A large toriana 
was set on the ground, and on this unbaked clay table and 
another near it were placed salt, bread, orange peel, small 
pieces of roast mutton fat (from the sacrificed sheep's 
tail, or KyaK)\ with rice (the white, not the red shilib\ 
fish, raisins, pomegranate seeds, and other eatables, all 
of a vegetable nature except the fat of the slaughtered 
sheep and the fish. A sJiganda, emerging ghost-like from 
the darkness, brought a branch of myrtle and held it over 
this table of tabutha or 'good things' as the medley was 
called. The two dravshas were a little to the east of the 
strange scene. The customary sanctification of the rasta 
took place: piece by piece it was touched and sanctified, 
the shganda sitting facing the priests and holding the 
branch of myrtle. Then came the dukhrana, the 'remem- 
brance' or solemn mention of the blessed souls of those 
in the world of light, including that of the long-dead 
risk *ama. The ganzibra and the priests each took a hand- 
ful of the food and held it while one of the priests recited 
the zidqa brikha prayers with the Abahathan prayer (see 
pp. 218222), and then carried it to their mouths and ate it. 
The ganzibra played a silent part during this ceremony, 
and the onlookers reminded me that during this zidqa 
brikha he was impersonating his ancestor, in whose name 
together with that of his wife, the prayers were offered. 
(For the full ritual of this zidqa brikha see pp. 205 ff.). 

When some of the food before them had been eaten, the 
ganzibra , holding a piece of myrtle, read from a book. All 
three placed sprigs of myrtle plume-like into their turbans 11 
and, one after another, drank hamra from their kepthas 
in the name of the dead. Then the two priests rose, and 
placing the ends of their stoles upon the head of the crouch- 
ing and silent figure of the ganzibra^ prayed. The gan- 
zibra then handed the book from which he had read to the 
officiating priest (Shaikh 'Abdullah), who read from it in 
his turn. I heard lists of dead persons. 'So-and-So, son of 
So-and-So, a forgiver of sins may there be for me.' 

142 The Manda or Cult-Hut ', known as t, 

At long last came the de-consecration of th 
in the uncertain light, all three weary men benl 
myrtle and to say, 'Lovely is the perfume of li 
Manda of Life!' 

It was the end. I saw a priest, in the dark, c 
of the dove and fatiri, and went home. 


1 . The use of a ritual pool or apsu in connexion with 
waters, seems to have formed part of Sumerian cults at Eri 
city whose site is only a short march from a modern ma, 
Shuyukh. Father Burrows in a recent publication ('P: 
abztf\ 'Orientalia 1 I (Commentarii periodici Pontificii I 
Rome, 1932) discussed the apzu or abzu, which, he cor 
have been a libation drain, as has been suggested, but mu 
basin or pool. He points out that some of the names o 
Lagash indicate pools 'connected with canals, or the like'. 

2. For Dr. Murray's interesting comment on the forb 
the mud-covered reed pillars see my article on 'the Cult-H 
daeans' in Ancient Egypt and the East, June 1934. The gable 
seems to have had a quasi-religious significance in Iraq 
Mr. M. E. L. Mallowan (in Iraq, vol. ii, part i) writing ol 
tions at Arpachiyah says: 'In antiquity the pitched roof 
painted terracotta from Al 'Ubaid . . . now in the British '. 
some confirmation of our interpretation of a curious steati 
the Tall Halaf period, which seems to represent a gabled roo 
roof pole.' 

That the gabled type of building had a religious bea 
Zarathustrian Persian era seems indicated by the tomb of 
gadae, which is of the manda type, also other holy buildin 
The building as a type may be taken to represent, in a n 
form, the tent with a ridge-pole supported by two uprigl 
which would be dear to nomads adopting a settled existent 
shrine, I am told, is of this gabled pattern, for this very reasc 

3. The marsh- Arabs call the ridge-pole the Jur or hi 
hardfn, Diet. &_?- = roof of reeds, * to betake oneself 

4. I was struck, when reading Thureau-Dangin's Rii 
with resemblances between the tarasa d rnandi and the Al 
the reconsecration of a temple after pollution, earthquak 
Several cuneiform tablets giving fragments of this ritual a 
the author (pp. 35 ff.). Significant features reappear in 
ritual, namely, slaughter of an animal on a bed of reeds, 
before its sacrifice, 'aspersions of pure water', three tabl 

lown as the Mandi 

ttion of the rasfa, and, 

men bent to smell the 

fume of life, my lord, 

he dark, dig the tomb 

The Manda c 

lighting of a fire, la; 
bringing of grains, oil, 
The first time I saw 
but I was told later 1 
cloths were sometimi 
to dry. (See next chi 
inside the cult-hut.) ' 


nexion with Ea, god of the 
n cults at Eridu, the ancient 
modern mandi at Suq esh- 
lication ('Problems of the 
Pontificii Instituti Biblici: 
lich, he concludes, cannot 
ted, but must have been a 
the names of cult-a&zus at 
or the like'. 

on the forked support and 

'the Cult-Hut of the Man- 

[.. The gabled roof building 

ice in Iraq in early times. 

t i) writing of recent excava- 

)itched roof is depicted in a 

i the British Museum; this is 

:urious steatite amulet ... of 

t a gabled roof with a bending 

religious bearing in the first 
the tomb of Cyrus at Parsa- 
holy buildings of this epoch, 
esent, in a more permanent 
y two upright poles: a form 
:ttled existence. The Shinto 
his very reason. 

h&Jisr or hardi, sometimes 
Jtake oneself to a hut. 

Dangin's Rituels Accadiens, 
'i and the Akkadian rites for 
n, earthquake, or violation, 
this ritual are translated by 
reappear in the Mandaean 
;d of reeds, an address to it 
', three tables of offerings, 

The Slaughter (Riti 
on a reed mat. The w 
(plur. buwari), spreac 
before the bull in a co 
his mouth washed. A 
murmured into the rij 
the throat, the priest sa 
three times, 'These w 
have done them.' p. 

The victim had a pia 
'Thou art the great bi 
In the heavens thine ii 


When Ami, Enlil,Enki, 
Remain to eternity in i 


May the sanctuary of 

The re-consecration 
night, three tables of 
the temple, . . . thou sh 
and roast meats . . . a fi 
spread beer of the first 
and the er-sem-ma U- 
the roof of this tempi 
make three aspersions 
tables of offerings for 
linens thou shalt place 
flour, bar-ga oil, three 
wilt instal, a censer ch 
grains of all sorts shalt 
right thigh, the reins, a 
beer of the first quality, 
the cloths thou wilt o 
chant. . . .' p. 35. 

Milk figures in P 
ritually at the early C 
of Hippolytus). 

'Sta, and, 
jmell the 
my lord, 

the tomb 

god of the 
the ancient 
at Suq esh- 
ems of the 
tuti Biblici: 
des, cannot 
ave been a 

upport and 
f the Man- 
Dof building 
early times. 
:ent excava- 
;picted in a 
icum; this is 
nulet ... of 
th a bending 

in the first 
us at Parsa- 
f this epoch. 
: permanent 
oles: a form 
The Shinto 

, sometimes 


r Accadiens, 
iian rites for 
:>r violation. 
ranslated by 

iddress to it 
}f offerings, 

The Manda or Cult-1 

lighting of a fire, lamentation ( 
bringing of grains, oil, flour, fruit, 
The first time I saw the cerem< 
but I was told later that this WE 
cloths were sometimes spread, 1 
to dry. (See next chapter for a : 
inside the cult-hut.) The 'Ritua 

The A 

The Slaughter (Rituel de Kalu 
on a reed mat. The word used is 
(plur. buwdri), spread reeds as 
before the bull in a copper vessel 
his mouth washed. An incantati 
murmured into the right ear of 1 
the throat, the priest said, ''Mu-lu 
three times, 'These works, it is t 
have done them.' p. 23. 

The victim had a piacular chan 

'Thou art the great bull, the ere; 
In the heavens thine image (has \ 


When Anu, Enlil, Enki, and Ninm 
Remain to eternity in this divine 

May the sanctuary of this god be 

The re-consecration. 'In a moi 
night, three tables of offerings to 
the temple, . . . thou shalt prepare 
and roast meats ... a fire for Ea a 
spread beer of the first quality, w 
and the er-sem-ma U-u-ba mu-k 
the roof of this temple in a plac 
make three aspersions of pure '\ 
tables of offerings for Ea, Sham 
linens thou shalt place on the seat 
flour, bar-ga oil, three vases adag 
wilt instal, a censer charged with 
grains of all sorts shalt thou pour 
right thigh, the reins, and roast rr 
beer of the first quality, wine, and 
the cloths thou wilt offer . . . f 
chant. . . .' p. 35. 

Milk figures in Parsi ritual 
ritually at the early Christian ba 
of Hippolytus). 

ir Cult-Hut, known as the Mandl 143 

.mentation (the masiqta ceremony corresponds), the 
., flour, fruit, and other foods, and 'water on the tables'. 
r the ceremony three white cloths were spread also, 
that this was accidental. Formerly, they said, white 
tes spread, but the cloths I saw were merely spread 
lapter for a more detailed account of the proceedings 
The 'Ritual of Kalu' is of the Seleucid period. 

The Akkadian Ritual 

fuel de Kalu, pp. 1 1 ff.). The bull was made to stand 
,vord used is buri and the modern marsh word is bdria 
id reeds as well as woven reeds. Water was placed 
opper vessel, water poured over him in lustration and 
An incantation l Gu-ga! gu-mah u ki-us asag-ga 1 was 
ight ear of the victim through a reed. After cutting 
said, l Mu-lu na-a mu-lu na-rf three times and repeated 
vorks, it is the gods who have done them, not I who 

' 23- 

iacular character. To quote from another tablet, p. 23 : 

Dull, the creature of the great gods. . . . 

image (has been destined) to the rites of the Supreme 

ki, and Ninmah (fixed) the destinies of the great gods . . . ; 
i this divine mystery 

f this god be pure, be holy.' 

i. 'In a month favourable, a day favourable, in the 
' offerings to the god of the temple, to the goddess of 
halt prepare, thou shalt offer the right thigh, the loins, 
fire for Ea and Marduk thou wilt illumine ; thou wilt 
;t quality, wine and milk; lamentation Utu-dim-l-(ta) 
r -u-ba mu-hul thou wilt chant. In the morning on 
)le in a place where entrance is forbidden thou wilt 
is of pure water (me elluti (pi.) ta-sal-laK). Three 
r Ea, Shamash, and Marduk thou shalt instal, three 
e on the seats, syrup of honey and cream, dates, sasqti 
:e vases adagurru, best quality beer, wine, milk thou 
:harged with cypress thou shalt place there, aromatic 
It thou pour out, thou shalt offer three sacrifices, the 
, and roast meats thou shalt present, thou shalt expose 
:y, wine, and milk ; thou wilt place water on the tables, 
offer ... for Ea, Shamash, and Marduk thou wilt 

Parsi ritual meals (chap. XIII), and was drunk 
Christian baptismal eucharist. (Apostolic Tradition 

1 44 The Manda or Cult-Hut \ known as the Mandl 

5 . 'A karsha . . . means "a trench or a furrow" (see also p. 20 1 ) . The word 
has a technical meaning in Zoroastrian rituals. At times, sacred or con- 
secrated things or materials are to be kept, for the time being, within a 
limited space or enclosure, so that persons other than the officiating priests 
may not come into contact with them. The person in charge of the things, 
placing the things on the ground, draws round them a temporary circle, 
trench, or furrow. . . . If somebody else steps within the circle or touches 
it even from without the circle, . . . the line of isolation is broken. . . . 
This karsha . . . has a double efficiency ... in case the substance itself 
(within the karsha} 'is undergoing decomposition and is impure, you stop 
the impurity from going out of the circle and spreading round about.' 
(JJM., pp. 1 1 3-14). In illustrations, the author shows that the karsha was 
not always circular; on p. 135 he shows a square p&vi. Similarly, 
when the Nestorians (Assyrian Christians) kill a sheep (which must be 
'father of a lamb') or a cock (which must be 'father of chickens', i.e. of 
proved fertility) at dukhrana (i.e. a ritual meal to help the souls of the dead 
in the after life or to save the life of a sick person) the victim's throat is cut 
either on the threshold of the door of the church or, if the dukhrana is 
performed elsewhere, a line called a misra is traced about it. 

6. In the name of an ancestor. 'Niyat literally means purpose, intention. 
Among the Parsees, many charitable deeds are said to be performed by a 
person in the niyat of a deceased relative or friend. A man may build a Fire- 
Temple or a Tower of Silence or [some] such other religious edifice in the 
niyat of B, his father, or relative, or friend' (JJM., p. 200). 'The formulae 
used for this purpose have varied at different times. The formula used in 
the Fravardin Yasht is: "We invoke the Fravashi. . . ." For example, "We 
invoke the Fravashi of the holy Yima of Vivagha'na". The formula used 
in the Pazend Afrin-i-Papithwin is "May the holy spirit of . . . be one with 
us",'&c. (JJM., p. 8 1.) 

7. One priest told me that the male sex was not essential with sacrificed 
birds; but slaughtered beasts must always be male. '* 

8. Silent prayer. Prayer is usually silent when the person praying is 
considered ritually 'dead', or on occasions of extreme sanctity, or in the 
case of a bride during her baptism. It seems to correspond to the Parsi 
praying 'in Baj'. Bajs are recited amongst other occasions, on 'Baj days', 
i.e. anniversaries of the deaths of persons. See JJM. pp. 360361. 

9. I have already pointed out that the custom of killing a victim on a 
bed of reeds goes back to Akkadian times. A similar custom seems to have 
been practised by the Magians. Herodotus says: 'The man who wishes to 
sacrifice brings his victim to a spot of ground which is pure from pollution, 
and there calls upon the name of the god to whom he intends to offer. It is 
usual to have the turban encircled with a wreath, most commonly of 
myrtle. The sacrificer is not allowed to pray for blessings on himself alone, 
but he prays for the welfare of the king, and of the whole Persian people, 
among whom he is of necessity included. He cuts the victim in pieces, and 

The Manda or Cult-Hut ', known as the Mandt 145 

having boiled the flesh, he lays it out upon the tenderest herbage that he 
can find, trefoil especially.' (The turban and myrtle wreath are identical 
with the Mandaean turban and klila?) Sir JlvanjI Jamshedji Modi thinks 
that 'in very old times, all the sacrificial requisites were spread on a matting 
or carpet'. (JJM.,p. 273.) 

10. Moulton, in his Early Zoroastrianism (p. 408 f.), speaking of the 
Magians, says they were slaughterers, 'but not always with iron but with 
wood'. Note, too, that the Magians wore white, a turban, and a myrtle 
wreath, and slaughtered beside water. They were careful, however, not to 
pollute the water with blood. 

1 1 . The kit/a, or myrtle wreath of the baptism ceremony, is placed 
between the turban and the tagha. But in the ceremony described here, 
the myrtle was stuck into the folds of the turban. See chapter on 'Eating 
for the Dead'. 




s said above, the priesthood is dwindling. The 

JL\ authority of the priest is not what it was, and his in- 
come has suffered; moreover, the conditions of modern life 
make it difficult for him to carry out the arduous observ- 
ances imposed by his faith, or to obey injunctions which 
he must exhort others to follow. Ablution and immersion 
are so essential to his calling that he must enjoy at all times 
free use of an unpolluted foreshore; thus the cult is 
scarcely adapted to cities. Should he live far from towns, 
however, the poor and humble inhabitants of marsh and 
village offer him an insufficient livelihood. 

The priesthood is hereditary, 1 and there are families 
in which father and son have been priests without in- 
terruption for centuries. I do not mean that the priesthood 
is entirely shut to those outside the priestly families : a lay 
Subbi who has a 'clean' family history for the necessary 
number of generations, and has the requisite physical and 
mental qualifications, can become a priest, but, in practice, 
the priesthood tends to run from father to son. 

The training begins in a boy's earliest years. As a little 
fellow, he puts on his rasta 2 and acts as his father's acolyte, 
or shganda. He begins to learn his letters when he is 
three to four years old, and when a boy is literate he 
is called a yalufa. He begins to commit prayers and 
rituals to memory as soon as he can speak. In earlier 
times no knife or scissors were allowed to come into con- 
tact with the hair of a child destined for priesthood from 
birth upwards ; but now a boy may train for priesthood if 
he has not cut his hair since puberty. 3 He must be without 
the least physical blemish. I was told of a certain yalufa 
called Bahram, whose brother was a ganzibra, who, 
having severed the top of his finger while chopping wood, 
went to the ganzibra. The latter said, 'I will give you 
masw'etta (masbuta, baptism) to atone for the blood 

Consecration of the Priest, or Tarmida 147 

pollution, but you cannot be a priest now'. Bahram, 
bitterly grieved, tried to persuade his brother that the 
decision was harsh, but his efforts were unavailing. 

A circumcised man, one who is impotent, and a eunuch 
are all debarred from priesthood, for the body must be 
'pure, sound, and perfect'. If a priest already ordained 
receives an injury which destroys his manhood or robs 
him of a limb, he can no longer officiate. Apparently the 
loss of an eye, or of an interior organ by operation, is not 
now counted, though, according to the Alf Trisar Shiala, 
the priest's sight must be faultless. Madness (after 
ordination) is believed a curable state, although, of course, 
a man is not permitted to officiate while mad. 

Not only the body of a priest, but his genealogy must 
be sound. He must be of pure Mandaean blood, and his 
family must be physically and ritually immaculate for 
several generations back on both sides of the family. 
Family history is always known with the Mandaeans, 
especially the priests, who keep long genealogies, usually 
written in the holy books, going back for five hundred 
years or longer. If any of his female ancestors within three 
generations were married when widows or not-virgin, 
the would-be priest cannot be consecrated. Hence it may 
be said that every priest is, in a sense, of Virgin-birth'. 

I have been told several times that sex is not a bar to 
priesthood. There have been women priests and ganzivri, 
though a woman ganzibra can only perform one marriage 
ceremony; moreover, in the Ginza (i3th book, rt. side), 
there is a mention of Mandaean priestesses. The Alf 
Trisar Shiala says, however, 'zdahar d la titirsun tagha 
V ( ntha' (Beware lest ye consecrate a woman as priest). 
I have never met one, or heard a priestess spoken of as 
existent, but was assured that there have been priestesses 
in the past. The names of such occur in the 'Abahathan'. 

When a boy has memorized enough of the ritual and 
prayers, become accustomed to act as shganda or acolyte, 
and studied the holy books under the instruction of a 
priest and ganzibra^ he is ready to receive initiation into 
the first degree of priesthood and become a tarmida. The 

148 The Priesthood 

usual age for initiation is soon after puberty. If a young 
man is married, the matter of consecration is complicated 
by the question of whether his wife is, or is not, in a state 
of purity. If during his consecration she menstruates, 
has a miscarriage, or produces a child, serious pollution 
invalidates the consecration and all concerned in it starting 
with 366 baptisms for the officiating ganzibra. If during 
the rite the wife of the ganzibra becomes unclean, in 
addition to the 366 baptisms he is debarred from ever 
becoming a risjh *ama. 

If the ganzibra approves of the personal character of 
the shwalia (as the novice is called), and finds his know- 
ledge of doctrines, rituals, and holy books satisfactory, 
the proceedings open on a Saturday. 

I have not witnessed the ceremonies, but have had 
several informants who related the proceedings with great 
detail, and, as a whole, their descriptions tally. All is 
prepared beforehand, the reeds, the sacrificial sheep, and 
all that is necessary in the way of cult objects. The Subba 
from far and near assemble, for the consecration of a priest 
is a time for great rejoicing and is spoken of for weeks 
beforehand. The ganzibra who has instructed the novice 
and is called his 'rabbey' (rabat) assembles as many priests 
as possible there should be at least seven, with two 
shgandas and all these baptize each other in the river (or 
mandi-pooY). The novice himself receives two baptisms, 
one at the hands of a priest and one at the hands of his 
'rabbey'. A sheep, prepared and ceremonially washed as 
described on p. 136, is slaughtered beside the water on 
the usual bed of reeds enclosed by a misra. This ritual 
slaughter, a priest explained, is fdwa* (ransom) for the 
novice. Then the shwalia (the final a is pronounced), is 
taken within the mandi^ or into the house of the ganzibra, 
that the assembled priests may ascertain finally that his 
body is perfect. 5 'As one who buys a ruby examines it to 
see that it is clear and flawless, so do they examine the 
body of the shwaliaj was the expression used by a ganzibra 
in his description. After the examination, the young 
man resumes his rasta, and two women, of an age past 

Consecration oj the Priest, or Tarmlda 149 

menstruation, come to the novice and wash his legs, one 
the right leg and the other the left. 

Next the priests build a reed hut at the southern end 
of the courtyard of the ganzibras house. This reed hut, 
like that used at a wedding, is called the andiruna, a word 
recalling the name given to the women's quarters in a 
Persian house (andirun). The hut is oblong, has rounded 
corners, and the north wall bulges to the east of the 
entrance. (See p. 151 for plan.) Its roof is flat, not 
gabled. Over the roof is thrown a veil of blue-dyed 
muslin. 6 So says my most reliable informant (a priest), 
but one layman told me that a blue mantle (tzar or ( aba) 
was thrown over the hut, and another that it was put 
beside it. On my questioning some priests they showed 
themselves reluctant to admit it, and, when pressed, said 
that the custom had no significance. According to Hirmiz, 
this blue drapery, whatever it may be, is called 'Ruhas 
*aba . Blue, according to Mandaeans, is the colour of 
Ruha's mantle, and pale, cornflower, and sky-blue are her 
symbolical colours. I think it possible that the andiruna 
represents the earthly, or animal, soul, the ruha or 'breath- 
of-life', and that in the minds of the priests this has some- 
how become associated with Ruha, mother of the planets, 
and is therefore thought to belong to the 'unofficial', or 
magic, side of their cults. The symbolism seems simple : 
the transit of the shwalia from one hut to another shows 
that he passes out of a life dominated by the earthly spirit 
into a life dominated by the soul. But I anticipate the ritual. 

A yalufa of priestly birth related the following : 

'Once a candidate for priesthood refused to put the blue 'aba 
above the reed hut, saying, "Why should one put Ruha's mantle 
above all ?" When he went down to the river to cleanse dates before 
eating them, something came and struck him to the ground. They 
picked him up and took him back, and he told them before he died 
that it was Ruha herself who had struck him. Yes, he died, though 
no sign of illness had been upon him previously.' 


'Ruha is of extreme beauty. Shaikh Joda's father, my grand- 
father, Shaikh Damuk, saw Ruha herself. It was when he was 

150 The Priesthood 

being consecrated as priest, and Ruha's izar (mantle) had been on 
the andiruna. He saw her as he was performing the rlshama in the 
river. He described her as being of great loveliness, although he was 
alarmed and cried, ''''Ana dakhilech!'' (literally one who enters a tent 
and craves protection i.e. "thy suppliant"). 

I am told that formerly a piece of blue cord or thread 
was inserted between the leaves of holy books as a symbol 
of, or charm against, Ruha. This was called the 'saham 
Ruha\ or 'Ruha's portion'. It is now said to be inserted 
somewhere in the binding, but I have never seen it. 

When the hut is ready, the ganzibra, priests, and 
shgandas perform their rishama' 7 and go through the 
rahmi, 8 These preliminaries concluded, the seven priests 
(including the ganzibra) take their stand inside the 
andiruna facing the north, the ganzibra standing on 
the extreme right. Each priest has his Sidra d Nish- 
matha (Book of Souls, the ritual for full baptism) open 
before him. 

The scene must now be described in detail. The court- 
yard is full of people (a circumstance which I have left 
inadequately represented in my rough diagram). A space 
is left in front of the andiruna in which the novice wearing 
a new rasta, with a piece of gold sewn to the right side of 
the nasifa and a piece of silver to the left, is seated in a 
chair facing the entrance of the andiruna^ holding the 
closed book of the Sidra d Nishmatha between his palms, 
and with it a sprig of freshly plucked myrtle. Two 
dravshi (banners) are planted one to the right and the 
other to the left, north of the andiruna and south of the 
candidate on his chair. Beside each dravsha, on the left, 
is a qintha (clay box on the lid of which is cult apparatus, 
see p. 107). In the south-east and south-west corners 
of the courtyard Mandaean men spectators are grouped. 
In the north-west corner stand women, girls, and children, 
who utter joy-cries from time to time. In the north-east 
corner are women whose task it is to sew the taghas or 
crowns. To the east of the courtyard stand men whose 
task will be seen below. 

Lengths of thick white silk and of cotton web, about a 






W Candidate or 
/TI\ shwalia on chair 

Glintha iDrabsha 

I Place of the Shkhinba 

GLinhha V Drabsha 

ISh^anda Shujanda 
^:&S^ Priesbs Priests. 





FIG. 8. 

152 The Priesthood 

dhra in width, are brought to the ganzibra in the andiruna. 
The silk is jazz, i.e., natural white silk, hand-woven. He 
cuts this in two to make one tagjia for himself and one 
for the shwalia. He next takes the cotton and cuts across 
the breadth pieces about 3 inches wide. If it is the first 
time he has consecrated a priest, he cuts off 30, if the 
second, or more, he cuts off 24. These pieces are taken 
by one of the shgandi to the sewing-women, who double 
them lengthwise, sew the rough edges of each piece to- 
gether, and one end of each together. The men on the 
east then take them, turn them inside out, so that the 
sewn edges are inside, and return them to the sewing- 
women, who then complete their task by sewing the two 
ends of the bands together, to form fillets or circlets. 
These taghas are for the new priest, and prayers of con- 
secration are read over each on the following day. 

The shwalia recites from memory the whole of the. 
Sidra d Nishmatha, while the priests within the andiruna 
follow with their copies open before them to see that no 
mistake is made. Before he is considered worthy of priest- 
hood, a novice must be word perfect in the Book of Souls, 
in the whole ritual of the masekhtha (masiqta 'raising-up' 
from slq 'to rise', hence, ritual and prayers to help the re- 
leased soul to ascend to the world of light), and the rahmi.v 

At each successful recital the women utter joy-cries. 
The novice then rises, is admitted into the andiruna^ kisses 
the hand of the ganzibra and those of the priests, and takes 
his seat beside the ganzibra. Nine prayers are read over 
his head, and the time till sunset is spent in devotions. 
The priests then 'open' (i.e. de-consecrate) their rastas, 
and they and the shgandi go out of the andiruna^ leaving the 
ganzibra and the novice within, still wearing their rastas. 

The priests, helped by laymen, now build a shkhinta^ 
exactly opposite to the andiruna^ its narrow opening (for 
no cult building has either door or window) exactly 
opposite that of the andiruna, i.e. on the southern wall of 
the sjikhinta. This cult-hut is built of reeds in the jemali 
shape, i.e. oblong and with a pent-roof; in fact, it is like 
the mandi, but not plastered with mud, and not so 

Consecration of the Priest^ or Tar mid a 153 

elaborate (see Chapter VIII). On the east wall it has three 
uprights and three thwarts ; on the west wall, four uprights 
and four thwarts. It is covered over with white muslin. 

Night falls, and the novice and the ganzibra spend the 
night in the andiruna^ reading from the holy books or 
chanting prayers. All the sacred books which can be 
found must be placed in the andiruna^ but especially two 
the Diwan Alma Rishaya and the Diwan Malkutha 
Ileytha. If these are not present, the proceedings are 

Not only do the novice and his master (the ganzibra) 
keep vigil, but the whole congregation of priests and lay- 
men also, and spend the time in feasting, beating drums, 
and making merry. If the novice wishes to leave the 
andiruna he may do so for a short time, but the ganzibra 
remains, and if the ganzibra goes out, the shwalia remains, 
for the andiruna must not be empty. 

At early dawn, before the sun is up, the shwalia and his 
rabbey (or ab y father), i.e. the ganzibra^ issue from the 
andiruna. Standing between the two huts, the young man 
again recites the Book of Souls. This ended, he enters 
the shkhinta^ while the priests go to the andiruna^ pull it 
down, and destroy it. Siouffi says that it is burnt, but this 
is denied with surprise by all that I have questioned. 

In the new hut, the shkhinta, the postulant must remain 
until the next Sunday morning, only withdrawing in order 
to perform his rishama, obey a call of nature, or wash his 
food in the river. Priests tell me that, in practice, the 
young man can leave the shkMnta as long as an hour if the 
ganzibra takes his place, but I incline to think that in 
more rigid days this would have been impossible. 

At his first entry into the shkMnta the shwalia puts on a 
second new rasta (he wears a new rasta the first day), and 
the priests, who have consecrated their rastas after the 
preliminary ablutions, invest him with his priestly ring, 
the Shorn Yawar, with his tagka^ and the klila, and with a 
margna, that is to say, with all the insignia of priestly rank. 
The prayers are long, and cannot be given here. A needle 
and thread are then ceremonially dipped, and each piece 

4363 x 

1 54 The Priesthood 

and knot of the sacred dress is sewn into place. A similar 
sewing takes place for the ganzibra. 

The week which ensues must be spent in a state of 
absolute purity. The ganzibra spends much time with the 
novice in the hut, exhorting him and praying with him, 
but, as the time is considered one of joy, feasting and fun 
are kept up outside, and the novice is not debarred from 
eating mutton, vegetables, fruit, or fish if these have been 
properly lustrated, prepared and cooked, either by a priest 
or by a woman of priestly family past the age of menstrua- 
tion. The novice must make and cook his bread himself, 
a toriana and brihi being used for the purpose. These are 
carefully treated, for if any accident happens to a cult- 
object during the proceedings many baptisms must be 
performed. If the toriana breaks during the week, or the 
sixty days' purity which follows it, the shwalia incurs sixty 
baptisms and his rabbey the same. If the brihi y both must 
be baptized by five priests, if the kangana, by three priests; 
if the margna floats away or is broken, both have fifty 
baptisms, if the Shorn Yawar is lost, fifty; if the tagha, 
sixty; if sjiarwala, burzinqa, himiana, or nasifa are injured 
or lost, the novice and ganzibra must receive triple 
baptism from three priests. 

The most serious contamination during the week is 
nocturnal pollution. 10 For this reason, the youth is not 
allowed to sleep for the whole week, and a perpetual 
din is kept up to prevent his falling asleep. Drums are 
beaten, chants sung, guests are entertained, joy-cries 
pierce the air, and merriment is noisy and perpetual. If 
the lad nods from time to time, a priest nudges him, but I 
gather that if the doze is light, a little latitude is given. 
If, in spite of all precautions, such pollution occurs during 
the first three days and nights, the shwalia and rabbey incur 
366 baptisms performed at the end of the entire period. 
If on the fourth day and night, sixty baptisms are incurred, 
on the fifth, fifty; on the sixth a triple baptism by three 
priests and the recitation of twenty-one rahmis. If the wet 
dream occurs before the investiture of the tagha^ the whole 
consecration is postponed for a year. 

Consecration of the Priest, or Tarmida 1 

Each day the shwalia wears a new .rasta, and clothes 
and food are distributed daily in his name to the poor. 
Each day he receives the pihtha and mambuha from the 
priests. Three times daily he recites the rahmi with the 
prayers for the morning, noon, and afternoon. Each day 
the ganzibra teaches him three secret words (for these 
words of power are twenty-one). As these are too sacred 
to be pronounced, the ganzibra writes them in the dust. 

On the following Sunday morning, very early, after the 
rahmi^ the shwalia baptizes the ganzibra. The procedure 
is the same as usual, but the prayers are not all the same 
as for the ordinary baptism. This baptism is called the 
Masbuta d Zaharaitha, and its virtue is that of sixty 
baptisms. The shwalia is himself baptized by seven 
priests or three, one of whom is ti\t ganzibra. 

The first stage of the consecration is now over, and the 
shwalia begins the sixty days of purity. During these he 
must perform the triple immersion (tamasha) three times 
daily, before the rahmi of the morning, noon and afternoon, 
not changing into dry clothes until he has completed the 
office. He lives apart from his family, and, if married, 
may not cohabit with his wife. His diet, according to 
some priests, should be entirely meatless. Others say that 
mutton and the flesh of 'pure' (i.e. non-flesh-eating) birds 
are allowed, but chicken and eggs forbidden. Vegetables, 
fruit, and milk are his orthodox food, and slaughter is 
forbidden him. He makes his bread himself, purifying 
the grain before grinding it seven times. He may not go 
into the market or a public bath or urinal. He may not 
remove his sharwala completely or take off his head 
covering. So rigorous is this latter rule that even when 
he performs the immersions he wears a tightly fitting cap. 
If he wishes to comb his hair, he goes into his room or 
hut, for he lives apart in his own house for the period 
of purity, and removes his head-dress under a white 
muslin covering, such as a mosquito-net. The chance 
visit or touch of a person or thing in a state of uncleanness 
may render that day void, and another day with the devo- 
tions which should have been performed in it is added at 

156 The Priesthood 

the end of the sixty. Thus the sixty days' purity are rarely 
accomplished in sixty days. 

When these are safely over, the shwalia reads his first 
masiqta (pronounced masekhtha\ which is in the name of 
his rabbey. 

On the Saturday the mandi enclosure is dug over and 
, cleansed, the pool cleared out, the water-channels freed 
from obstructions, fresh mud applied to the cult-hut, and 
mud plastered into the shape of a triple arch placed round 
the entrance to the hut. Fuel is given ablution, wheat and 
sesame washed and prepared, in short, all preparations 
that can be made for the morrow are carried out before 
the sun goes down. 

On the Sunday morning the cult-hut is washed inside 
and out, and the sheep and dove destined for slaughter are 
brought and sacrificed with the rites described in the last 
chapter. The ganzibra, after performing the tamasha 
before the sacrifice of the dove, puts on the same rasta in 
which he officiated on the first day of the shwalia's con- 
secration. Meanwhile, and subsequently, this rasta is put 
away carefully in a box, and the greatest care is taken to 
prevent any pollution of the rasta, for should such occur, 
there are penalty baptisms. As soon as he has put on this 
rasta, the ganzibra must not speak a word. 

I must now describe what I passed over with a few 
words in the last chapter, namely, the Masiqta. 

The Masiqta of the Shwalia 

The body of the slaughtered dove is brought inside the 
mandi, and one of the priests assisting removes a few of 
the breast feathers and cuts out a little of the flesh above 
the right breast. Salt is placed on this, the meat is taken 
outside and roasted on the fire, then placed on the larger 
toriana inside the mandi. This toriana is placed near the 
eastern wall of the interior, before the s_hwalia, and between 
it and the northern wall is the smaller toriana upon which 
is the brihi and the qauqa. 11 The body of the dove, wrapped 
in palm-fibre, is put between the roof and northern interior 
wall, just in front of the two toriani, its head facing the 

Toriana B 


Qauqa or 
incense stand 


Toriana A 

(a) The keptha in which is the misha (/) Quince. 

(i.e. sesame oil and date juice). (g) Dove's flesh, shredded. 

() Sultana raisins. 
(<r) Pomegranate seeds. 

(d) Coconut. 

(e) Shelled walnuts. 

(h) Qanina of water. 
(f) Empty keptha. 
(f) [Later] the fatiri o^JZap (or qinia) 

ten at a time, until all 66 are piled 

up at (k). 



JJ M's diagram of Parsi 



A. Seat of priest. 

B. Seat of fire-priest. 

C. Fire-vase, ladle and tongs. 

D. Tray for sandalwood and frankin- 

E. Tray containing the myaxd, i.e. 
fruit, flowers, milk, wine, water, &c. 


Officiating priest. 

sacred foods (see 


A. Toriana for 
Toriana A). 

Toriana for fire-basin and incense- 
holder (see Toriana B). 


158 The Priesthood 

officiant at the toriani. (In the Tarasa d Mandi the dove 
faces the ganzibra^ whose toriani are at the extreme right. 
The ritual is practically the same, except that all three priests 
read the masiqta, each having a small and large toriana^ the 
ganzibra consecrating forty-two fatiri and the two priests 
twelve each. Otherwise, the ritual is triplicated.) 12 

In the western half of the cult-hut is the hand-mill 
(Mand. gasjnr^ Ar. raha). 

As it is the sjruoalia who must celebrate the masiqta 
alone, the ganzibra^ in whose name the masiqta is to be 
read, de-consecrates his rasta, and becomes a spectator, 
keeping, however, the Sharh d Tarasa d Shishlam Rba 
in his hand to prompt his pupil if he stumbles. The latter 
begins by the usual 'Sharwali ( tres\ &c. (p. 32) takes 
his margna and two empty qaninas in his right hand, and 
goes to the mandi-pool, where he sets the qaninas on the 
bank while he performs the rishama and lustrates his staff. 
Then he fills the qaninas, placing one at the eastern post of 
the cult-hut entrance, and the other on the large toriana at 
which he is to officiate. On the smaller toriana (see above) 
is the fire-saucer and incense, on the larger the various 
ritual foods. In the misra of the larger stands a keptha 
filled with the expressed oil of sesame mingled with date- 
juice, extracted as described on pages 1334. Ranged 
in order round the toriana from the northern corner of 
the misra are the following: 

1. The tabutha, i.e. sultana (white) raisins, quince, 
pomegranate seeds, pieces of coconut, shelled wal- 
nuts, and some of the dove's flesh, shredded. 

2 . A qanina of water. 

3. An empty keptha. 

4. (Later.) The sixty-six fatiri each about as big as a 
large round biscuit. The dough is prepared without 
salt by the priests, the shganda who assists the new 
priests forms the dough into the loaves, but he does 
not bake these, merely passes them three times with 
a circular movement over the fire. 

The shwalia's place is behind the table of sacred foods, 
and the fire and incense apparatus (see figure on p. 157 for 

Consecration of the Priest, or Tarmida 159 

similar Parsi arrangement at the Afringan ceremony).^ 
When during the ritual he sits, he takes his place either on 
a log of wood or on a stool of reeds (the kursi or throne). 
The entire recital must be by heart. I shall give, just as 
Mandaeans give in describing, the first phrase of the 
various prayers employed : were they to be written in full, 
as in the rituals in my possession, they would fill an entire 
book. Here and there, when these prayers are particularly 
significant, I shall permit myself to quote them. 

The shwalia begins by the consecration (tarasa) of his 
rasta and tagha^ inserting the name of the ganzibra who 
initiated him in all the places in the ritual where a mention 
is made of a name. In the case of a masiqta for a dead 
person, the name of the dead person is inserted, but in the 
anticipatory masiqta for a living person, the name of that 
person is inserted. 

The prayers for this consecration are five in number 
and are given in Q. and need not be quoted here. After the 
Manda aqran (Manda qran\ he recites, 'Bshma d hiia rbia 
asutha uzakutha thuilh lhaza nisjnmta d Plan bar Planitha d 
haza masiqta hail kbar* , &c., and closes thepandama about 
the lower part of his face. *He then takes the qanina, while 
the shganda puts four raisins in the empty keptha on the 
toriana. The shwalia reads 'In the name of the Life, thou 
art Water of Life', &c., and at the words, 'who departed 
from their bodies', he pours a little water on the raisins in 
the keptha. When in the same prayer he reaches the words 
'the soul of this masiqta\ he inserts the ganzibrd's name. 

Next, he takes the qauqa in his left hand and a pinch of 
incense from it in his right, and recites ''Hal hiia qadmaiia 
(Hail first Life), &c., and at its end throws the incense on 
the fire-basin. The ganzibra hands him a twig of myrtle. 
The shwalia recites : 

1. 'Mn hiia audin', i.e. 'Bshmaihun d hiia rbia haila ushrara 
f mra u shima nhuilh Idilh Plan br P. (name of ganzibra) d 
haza masiqta shabiq hataia nhuilh . . .' &c. 

2. 'Mn hiia audin utushbihan' . . . &c. When in this he reaches 
the words Imirfas ainh *ltafukia gargilia^ he twists the myrtle 
into a wreath, and finishes the prayer. 

160 The Priesthood 

3. The 'Tushbihan' (Bshma d hiia tushbihan Ihiia barayia, &c.). 
During the reading of this prayer, still holding the myrtle 
wreath, he takes the cup with it into his left hand, and with 
the right he mixes the raisins with the water, squeezing and 
kneading them so that their juice mingles with the water. 

4. The 'Ilkhun dilkhun' (Bshma d hiia 'Ikhun dilkhun, &c.). 

5. The 'Beyth mishqal aini' (Bshma d hiia bit mishqal ainia, &c.). 

6. The 'Mishqal ainia'. 

The shganda then brings the saltless dough, passes it 
three times over the fire, saying, ' Ushma d Manda d hiia 
madkhar *lakti (this is called the sahada d nura^ or the 
'testimony of the fire'. It does not cook the dough, nor 
is it intended to do so). 

The shwalia places the cup of water mingled with 
raisins down on the toriana (this liquid is now termed the 
hamra] and, still holding the myrtle wreath, he takes a 
pinch of the dough about as large as a pea, and recites : 

1. 'Bshma d hiia sghidna shahabana umshahbana', &c. 

2. 'Saghidna shahbana umshabana Ihakh anana kasitha', &c. 

3. 'Sighdit ushabath', &c. 

4. 'Sighdit ushabath lYawar Ziwa', &c. 

5. 'Saghidna shahbana umshabana Ihakh shutha d qra Yawar', &c. 

6. 'Sighdit ushabath TUsar d ptha pihtha', &c. 

7. 'Sighdit ushabath TUsar Nhur', &c. 

8. 'Saghidna shahbana umshabana Ihakh shutha qadmaiia d 
'hab', &c. 

9. 'Mqaimatun hiia qadmaiia d f nish', &c. 

He then dips his ring, the Shorn Yawar, in the cup of 

1. 'Biriawish kanna d mia hiia', &c. 

2. 'Shumakh yatir hiia asgia c qara', &c. 

Then he takes the keptha containing the misha, i.e. the 
expressed sesame and date juice, placing the klila and the 
pihtha (i.e. the morsel of dough, which is now sanctified) 
on the toriana. 

He recites : 

1. 'Bshma d hiia nhar nhura', &c. 

2. 'Zhira umzahara', &c. 

3. 'Bshma d hiia asgia Manda d Hiia Ikukhbia', &c. 

Consecration of the Priest^ or Tar ml da 1 6 1 

When in this prayer he reaches the words balbushta d 
Tuzataq Manda d Hiia, he wraps the pihtha about the 
klila, and recites on to the end of the prayer. When it is 
finished, he sits and begins the consecration of the fatiri. 
The shganda places these, ten at a time, on the toriana. 
The shwalia takes them one by one, performing the 
following ritual upon each, and piling one on the other, 
until sixty have been piled up. 

The Ritual for the Fatiri 

He holds a klila over the fatira, and places a little of 
each of the five tabutha (i.e. four pomegranate seeds, a 
little scrap of the coco-nut, walnut, and quince, and four 
raisins), and a fibre of the dove's meat on it, then, dipping 
his finger into the misha, he draws it three times from right 
to left at the places indicated below : 

1. 'Bshma d hiia nukhraiya hazin ziwa unhura', &c. During 
this prayer he performs the threefold signing ofthefatira (a) at the 
words nishimta dPlan (i.e. name oftheganzibra"), (b}nishimta dPlan 
(second mention), (c] at the end of the prayer (a third mention of 
the name). 

2. 'Ashar asvan' (Ashar sban}^ &c. He performs the triple 
signing when he reaches the words, kth shahlalh hazin nishimta d 

3. The 'Ibri ana' (brh ana}. The signing takes place at the 
words dilh baiia. 

Thus he signs each /#//># fifteen times in all. When he 
has completed this ritual on sixty fatiri he begins prayer 
(i) again, but when he reaches the words, nshimta d Plan 
. . . Ibit Abathur he inserts the whole of the 'Abahathan' 
or 'invocation of ancestors' prayer. (As this comes more 
properly under later descriptions of death rituals, I refer 
the reader to Chapters XI and XII.) He then finishes 
prayer (i) and recites those two which follow it without 
'signing' with the oil. The next formula is so important 
and sacred that the ganzibra who is listening outside the 
mandi dictates it with the words, 14 

Wamur pasqit uparthit thlatha rushmia bma d ba ubkth shahlalh 

4363 y 

1 62 The Priesthood 

d bdinba Brh ana (And say, 'I have divided and separated the triple 
signs at the ma of the ba and at "when it casts off" which is after 
"I am a son" '). 

The shwalia thereupon says, with care to be correct, 
l pasqit uparthit udarit -palgjia d ba udarit mn fatira *laiia 
ubathraiia* [and I say, "I cut off, and divided, and took off 
the portion of the ba> and took away (something) from 
the (top) high fatira and the bottom fatira"]. While 
repeating these words he breaks off a small portion of the 
top fatira and the bottom fatira of the pile which he has 
made before him and puts these pieces with thepihtka (see 
back), removing the klila from it and adding a shred of 
the dove's meat. Then he recites, holding his hands the 
pihtha in the right hand over the pile offatiri : 

1. * f ngirtha laufa uzakutha', &c. 

2. 'Bihrh Yukhashar Ibraia', &c. 

Next, rising and putting his hand ready to \uspandama, 
he recites 

3. 'Malil uptha hiia rbia bpumaihun bziwa unhura', &c. 

and unfastens the pandama. He dips the pihtha with its 
additions into the hamra, and, placing it in his mouth, he 
swallows the morsel whole, after which he drinks some 
of the hamra. The shganda hands him another keptha and 
the qanina of water which he had placed outside the mandi 
at the entrance earlier in the proceedings. The shwalia 
pours some of this water into the keptha and drinks this 

He must now raise his voice and recite seven prayers, 
inserting the name of the ganzibra at the suitable places : 

1. ' 'thiar miia hiia Ishkhinathun', &c. 

2. 'Riha basima Jathra nisaq', &c. (extending his hand towards 
the brthi or fire-basin). 

3. 'Bshma d hiia mshabin hiia qadmaiia mshaba mlalun', &c. 

4. ' 'timlun hiia bziwa', &c. 

5. 'Shkhina hiia brahmaihun', &c. 

6. 'Klil almia shahia' &c. 

7. 'Almia bmisha shiha', &c. 

Consecration of the Priest, or Tar mi da 163 

These seven prayers recited, he stretches his hand over 
the tabutha, saying : 

1 . 'Bziu d nfish sbina', &c. (pron. Bziu ad anfesh asvina). 

2. 'Shkhinia hfia bziwaihun', &c. 

3. * 'tristun u'tqaimatun bathra d tabia' (during this prayer he 
shifts his margna from the left to the right arm), &c. 

4. 'Bshma d hiia mkalalna ushakhibna', &c. 

5. 'Mnh u mn sharuia', &c. 

6. 'Binia kasia Iziwa', &c. (pron. Beyni kassi Iziwa*}. 

7. 'Niaha ushalma', &c. 

8. The little 'Brikhi umshabbi' (i.e. 'Brikhia umshabia hiia d 
lhalin nishmatha', &c. 

9. The big 'Brikhi umshabbi' (i.e. 'Bshuma d hiia brikhia 
umshabia hiia brikh umshaba shumaihun', &c. 

He then sits and recites, Tab, taba Itabia, 8cc. (This 
is the prayer always associated with the ritual meal.) 

Then the following: 

1. 'Bshuma d hiia 'ngirta d nafqa', 5cc. (known as 'the big'). 

2. ' f sira hathima ruha unishimta d Plan', &c. 

3. ' f ruthai utushbihthai', &c. 

4. 'Bshuma d hiia c zil bshlam', &c. 

5. 'Manh bginzia', &c. 

6. 'Taubakh taubakh nishma', &c. 

7. 'Habshaba ukushta uzidqa', &c. 

8. 'Zidana umzaudana', &c. 

9. 'Asliq wasqan minh ulashibaqan bdaura batla.' 
10. 'Yuma d nafiq nishma.' 

n. ' 'tristun u c tqaimatun', &c. 

1 2. 'Brikhia umshabia hiia' (the little one), &c. 

13. 'Binthh d bainia hiia', &c. (at this prayer the margna is 
returned to the left arm). 

14. 'Bshma d hiia brikha umshaba hiia', &c. (the great). * * 

He then recites the Tab. taba Itabia of Shum son of 

* i . 

Noah (Nau, Nu or Nuh), i.e. Tab taba Itabia utris kinianh 
*l rahmih, &c. ; rises, and recites: 

1. 'Bshma d hiia mshaba ziwa', &c. 

2. 'Shkhin hiia shkhinta udnabh', &c. 

All this while six/0//n have remained untouched on the 

164 The Priesthood 

toriana. The shwalia rebinds }\\spandama anc 
entire ritual from his first binding of the pandi 
ritual from the point marked with a star in th 
the point marked with two stars). I have bee 
discover the reason for this curious omission t< 
the sixfatiri with the first sixty, thus necessit; 
long repetition of ritual. 

To take up the story from the point mark 
stars : The shwalia rises and recites : 

1. 'Bshma d hiia mshabin hiia qadmaiia', &c. 

2. 'Bshma d hiia bith mishqal aini', &c., the 'Beyth 

3. 'Mishqal ainia.' 

4. The Haiy qirioi, i.e. 'Bshumh d hiia hiia qriuia 

5. 'Bintha d baina hiia Idardari ula batlh', &c. 

6. 'Kbish hshukha tris nhura', &c. 

He then recites the 'big' Brikhia umshabit. 
the prayers: 

1. 'Tab, taba Itabia' (the 'Abahathan qadmaiia' < 
prayer, see pp. 219 ff.). 

2. 'Mshaba ziwa rba qadmaiia', &c. (the Shal shul 

and then gives his right hand in kus/ita 15 to 1 
saying, 'Kushta asiakh qaimakh^r The sh t 
washka washtema!' The shwalia repeats the 
aima, the Misjiqal ainia, and the Brikha umsju 
'big' or raftt) and then, again, the Tab^ taba h 
From this moment, the masiqta is end 
shwalia^ or rather the new priest, administer 
an ordinary (water and bread) sacrament, w 
name inserted in the prayers instead of that oft 
The shganda prepares a pihtha with salt in it, 
on the fire (it will be recalled that the pihh 
during the masiqta was without salt and unb 
water for the mambuha is no longer from the 
filled (by the shganda) from the mandi-^ool 
this is performed with the usual sacramental 
the conclusion of the sacraments the new prie 
margna beneath the toriana upon which are the 
piled-up /#/?>/. 

'ndama and repeats the 
f the pandama, (all the 
a star in these notes to 
I have been unable to 
omission to consecrate 
as necessitating such a 

ioint marked with two 

iia', &c. 

:., the 'Beyth mishqal aini'. 

a hiia qriuia', &c. 
tlh', &c. 

a umshabia again, and 

i qadmaiia' or 'Ancestors' 

:he Shal shultha). 

ushta 1 * to the shganda^ 
The shganda, 'Bi*i 
speats the Bith mishyal 
'ikha umsjhaba hiia (the 
Tab, taba Itabia, &c. 
<ta is ended and the 
administers to himself 
rament, with his own 
. of that oftheganzibra. 
th salt in it, and cooked 
t the pihtha prepared 
It and unbaked). The 
r from the qanina^ but 
nandi-^>oo\ direct. All 
cramental prayers. At 
e new priest places his 
lich are the tabutha and 


The shganda br 
pool, and the priesl 

1. ' 'timlun hiia', <* 

2. 'Tab, taba Ital 

f * m 

qadmaiia'; see p 

and throws water o 
He then repeats 
books : I will not q 
khun, &c. 

The s_hganda goe 
to see that it is all i 
the kus_hta. The lat 
for the de-consecra 
rite is over. As for 
dove, they are wra 
and buried, as said 
mandi enclosure, b 
A priest told me 
had gone through 
was an exceptional 
new priest's memo] 


1. Hereditary priest At 
were a hereditary caste; 

2. Therasta. See Ch 

3. Hair. Possibly bee 
of the rays of the sun, w 
story of Samson, told a: 
'Iraq). Shamshum, in t 
hero, and his long hairs 
darkness. He grows we 
grows strong, breaks th< 
enemies. Long hair is ol 
'hoods which use sun sy 
symbolisms are prevalent 
were described by Arab i 

repeats the 
wa y (all the 
se notes to 
i unable to 
ting such a 

d with two 


, &c. 

again, and 

r 'Ancestors' 


ic shganda. 

ba hiia (the 
ibia, &c. 
d and the 
to himself 
th his own 
and cooked 
iked). The 
qanina^ but 
direct. All 
prayers. At 
t places his 
tabutha and 

Consecration of t 

The shganda brings hi: 
pool, and the priest (farmii 

1. ' f timlun hiia', &c. 

2. 'Tab, taba Itabia', &c 
qadmaiia'j see pp. 219 f 

and throws water over his 
He then repeats the sh 
books : I will not quote he 
khun^ &c. 

The shganda goes over '. 
to see that it is all in place 
the kushta. The latter goe 
for the de-consecration of 
rite is over. As for the sis 
dove, they are wrapped t 
and buried, as said in the 
mandi enclosure, but not i 
A priest told me with \ 
had gone through the en 
was an exceptional feat. I 
new priest's memory, but 


1. Hereditary priesthood. Th< 
were a hereditary caste; priesthoi 

2. The rasta. See Chapter V] 

3. Hair. Possibly because the 
of the rays of the sun, would con 
story of Samson, told as a folk-s 
'Iraq). Shamshum, in this tale, 
hero, and his long hairs, his ray 
darkness. He grows weak, but ^ 
grows strong, breaks the bonds 
enemies. Long hair is often four 
hoods which use sun symbolism 
symbolisms are prevalent in the C 
were described by Arab authors i 

ation of the Priest, or Tar mid a 165 

brings him more water from the mandi- 
est (farmida) reads two prayers, 

', &c. 

Itabia', &c. (the 'Ancestors' or 'Abahathan 

epp. zigff.). 

r over his staff. 

ats the shal shultha prayer (in most ritual 

t quote here), and the Turn mn hiia 

over his rasta, with the usual formula 
1 in place, and the new tarmida gives him 
latter goes through the prayers and ritual 
ration of his rasta and tagha^ and the long 
: or the sixty-six fatiri and the body of the 
vrapped by the shganda in a white cloth 
aid in the last chapter, somewhere in the 

but not to the east of the hut. 
me with pride that at his consecration he 
the entire masiqta in six hours, but it 
lal feat. It is a severe test, not only of the 
nory, but of his physical endurance. 


isthood. The barn priests of the sun-cult at Sippar 
>te; priesthood with both Jews and Magians was also 

: Chapter VI. 

because the shearing of the hair, which is symbolical 
L, would constitute 'a sin against the light'. Take the 
d as a folk-story in Iraq (see Stevens, Folk-Tales of 
n this tale, is a personification of the Sun, or a sun- 
airs, his rays, are shorn by winter and the forces of 
weak, but when his rays lengthen in the spring, he 

the bonds of ice and death, rises, and destroys his 
is often found as a dedicatory feature amongst priest- 
L symbolisms for Deity, cf. the Greek Church (sun 
lent in the Christian religion). The Harranian priests 
ab authors as wearing white garments and long hair, 

1 66 The Priesthood 

also a girdle. The Yazldls, who seem to have a sun-cult, affect to-day the 
long hair, high hat, and white garments of the ancient Harranians. 

We read in the OT. that Samson's mother made him a Nazarite and let 
no scissors or knife come near his hair. There seem to have been two kinds 
of Nazarite (those who have made a vow), a temporary Nazarite, who cut 
his hair when his vow was over (he did not offer it, however, but made an- 
other offering to the Lord (Numbers vi), and the permanent Nazarite, 
whose hair was never cut from infancy. 

It seems that hair on the head is sacred, but that hair on the body is, by 
Iraqi Arabs and Jews, regarded as something unclean. Demons are pictured 
as beings with bodies covered with hair, and, before marriage, an Arab 
or Jewish virgin's body is rendered hairless by the services of a professional 
plucker. (Mandaeans, on the contrary, have no such taboo.) 

Hair on the head, particularly the beard, is a mark of honour. Cutting 
off the hair, therefore, is, paradoxically, often associated with self-dedica- 
tion to a deity (cf. tonsure of a monk and shearing of a nun's hair), or is 
torn out or cut off as a sign of intense personal grief, as an offering to the 
dead, perhaps. Yazidi women, when their husbands die, cut off their long 
hair and twine it about the tomb-stone, or lay it on the grave. 

Hair is supposed to have a magic connexion with the person on whom it 
has grown even after it is cut off, and Iraqis throw their combings into the 
river, not as an offering, but lest an enemy should take the hair and use it as 
a spell against them. In Iraq one never sees offerings of hair at shrines, 
or the tombs of holy persons, as in southern Europe. Moslems are often 
completely shaven, or partially shaven, but this matter is left to personal 

The Mandaean, even if a layman, considers the cutting of the hair of the 
head or beard impious. 

Parsis (Vendidad xvii) are enjoined to bury nails and hair, and it is 
customary to bathe after shaving or hair-cutting. But this is probably 
because anything that has grown on the human body is unclean and a 
source of pollution after it is separated from it. A Parsi friend tells me that 
Parsi priests do cut and trim their hair, but the cutting must be done by 
themselves, and not by a barber. 

In view of the curious connexion of Legend X with the Sikhs, it is worth 
mentioning that the Sikh, like the Mandaean, regards hair-cutting as 

4. Fidwa. The killing of a sheep, or sometimes a bird, to avert ill 
fortune from a person or house is a custom universally practised in Iraq 
without distinction of creed. Moslems, Christians, Jews, Yazldis, all 
preserve the custom, especially at weddings, when the bride is made to step 
over the blood of a slaughtered sheep as she enters her husband's house. 
At the recent marriage of the King of Iraq the bride's car passed over the 
blood of a victim whose throat was cut just before she alighted at the door 
of the palace. Similarly, when a woman whose child had died told me of her 
loss, the old phrase, fidwa malech_, 'your ransom' was on her lips. The idea 

Consecration of the Priest, or Tarmtda 167 

behind it seems to be that death, or ill fortune, has accepted a substitute. 
(See Chap. Ill, note 17.) I have also heard from a person telling me of 
a death Qurbdnach 'your sacrifice'. These phrases are not used by 
Mandaeans, however, or if so, I have never heard them. 

5. A Parsi candidate for priesthood must also 'be free from leprosy or 
any wound from which blood oozes, otherwise he would be rejected and 
the necessary permission refused' (JJM., p. 205). In a note (ibid.): 'It is 
said, that, in Persia, the candidate is taken to an adjoining room and there 
made stark naked and examined'. 

6. Mandaeans, like Yazidis, are forbidden to wear blue. Mandaeans 
also have abhorrence for black, as this is the colour of mourning and death. 
Yazidi faqlrs, however, wear black. Iraqi Christians and Moslems regard 
blue as a colour which may be worn during mourning. 

Bright blue in the form of buttons, beads, turquoises, lapis, or blue 
tiles, is looked upon as a protection against the evil eye. A bright blue 
button with seven, five, or two holes, known as a dahdsha or khedherama, 
is sewn to children's clothing, placed amongst jewellery, attached to harness, 
inserted into the pitching of boats and guffas, and threaded into the manes 
of horses. Its use is universal in Iraq. 

7. See pp. 1 02 if. 

8. The prayers of self-dedication and consecration of garments, &c. 

9. Similarly, during the Navar, or Parsi initiation into priesthood, the 
candidate must recite the Mmo-Navar Yasna with its ritual in theyazasfaa- 
gak (in the Fire-temple) (JJM., pp. 204-5), and was expected formerly to 
have the Yasna, Visparad, and several prayers of the smaller Avesta by 

The Parsi novice must have a purificatory bath, wear white, and is 
solemnly invested with the white turban. 

10. Cf. the Parsi initiation into priesthood: 'The candidate is expected 
to pass his days during the continuation of the whole ceremony which lasts 
a month, in a kind of retreat, in order to be free from worldly thoughts; 
he must sleep on the floor and not on a cot, and take his meals at stated 
times after prayers. According to the present custom, if the candidate has a 
pollutio nocturna during the two Bareshnums, he is disqualified and has to 
go through the Bareshnum again . . .' (JJM., pp. 206, 201). (Also, see 
KRC., 63.) 

11. See Chap. VII, p. 106. 

12. See last chapter, and note 4 of the same. 

13. The Parsi A fringan ceremony. See JJM. pp. 391 ff. 

14. Two passages in B.M. Or, 6592 refer to this part of the ritual. As 
they differ I quote them. The ba according to some priests is the dove's 
meat in the masiqta. (Others say it should be ma d_ 6h, and that the dove 
is called the ba in Lofani only.) 

(a) 'unirnar hda utrin uthlatha pihtha mn kllla tfuhrh unipalit pihtha mn 

1 68 The Priesthood 

klila unidra *umsa mn fatira ' laia ubathraia durh Ipalga d ba wamur pal tit 
upirthit udarit palga d ba ulgitinun bihdadia ahbidia pihtha ulgut qaninakh 
gawaia wamur kus_hta asinkhun mia bhamra mia bhamra warib mia dqanina 
bniara d hamra kulhun wamur bil mikal ubil mishtia ulh bil nirmia riha . . . 

(b) unimarpisqit thlatha rushumia ma d ba ukti skahlalh. udinbh d abra 
ana (Erh ana] unathna ( ' dh Iginzih nniqria *ngirtha laufa uzakutha athalh 
lhaza nishimta d plan d haza masiqta mn bit hiia unisaika unada thlatha 
adiatha unimar hda ntrin uthlatha pihtha mn klila b*uhrh u ( umsa mn had 
fatira ''laia ubathraia dirit palga d_ ba upalit pihtha mn klila udra *umsa mn 
fatira ''laia ubathraia Ipalga d ba walgitimm bihdadia udurh Iqanina 
gawaia uqria kusjkta asinkhim mia bhamra mia bhamra kulhun bil mikal ubil 
mishtia ub*il mirmia riha? The 'Bel-eating, Bel-drinking and Bel censing' 
is curious, and is lacking from another masiqta cult roll in my possession. 

1 5 . The right hand given in the kushta should be kissed by its owner 
on release and carried to the forehead in salute. 




THE consecration of a ganzibra (pronounced either 
ganzivra or ganzowra) must be performed by a gan- 
zibra^ two priests in cases of dire necessity one has 
sufficed and two shgandi (acolytes). The tarmida who 
is to be raised to the rank of ganzibra must be of high 
character, respected, tactful, well-versed in ritual and 
procedure, and able to expound the scriptures. He must 
not be the son of a suwadi or layman, but melka bar melka, 
i.e. of good priestly birth, for the priest's tagha or crown 
(see last chapter) is the symbol of his kingly function as 
ruler, lawgiver, and leader. Consecration to the ganziv- 
rate can only take place when some pious, aged person in 
the community is near death. This person must come 
of ritually pure and priestly stock, have been married 
and not childless'. As soon as it is perceived that such a 
person is at the point of death, the priests and ganzibra- 
elect are informed, and immediate preparations for the 
ceremony known as the 'Ingirtha or 'Message' are made. 
The priests all perform the rahmi, then priests and shgandi 
are baptized, one priest baptizing the ganzibra and being 
baptized by him in return. The mandi and its enclosure 
receive thorough ablution, misri (furrows to shut out 
impurities) are made and lustrated, the hut is washed 
inside and out precisely as at the tarasa d mandi (see pp. 
128 ff.) and at the consecration of the priest. 

Meanwhile, the dying person, with his death-rajta, is 
brought into the mandi enclosure, accompanied by a 
concourse of Mandaeans, for the consecration of a gan- 
zibra is a rare event and the occasion of great rejoicing. 
The dying person, if he is in a condition to understand, 
is happy to be the chosen bearer of the 'ingirtha, for he or 
she will thereby be purified from all past transgressions 
and pass into the worlds of light without a sojourn in the 
mataratha. Sesame seed is washed, roasted slightly on a 
4363 z 

1 70 Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganxibra 

fire of 'purified' fuel, shelled, pounded with dates in an 
iron mortar, then placed in a clean white cloth (gdada), 
and squeezed with iron tongs, the liquid expressed falling 
into a keptha. Some of the oil (misha) thus obtained is kept 
in the keptha for the masiqta^ but a few drops are transferred 
to a small phial. This phial is sealed with consecrated clay, 
and marked with the impression of the 'Shorn Yawar' and 
also with the finger-nail of the ganzi&ra-elect. 

The latter enters the mandi, reads a rahmi in the name 
of the dying person, consecrates his tagjia with the usual 
prayers, and binds his pandama about his mouth and 
nostrils. The misha dakhia (pure unction) stands on the 
toriana before him, and, when his pandama is secured, he 
lifts it and recites nine prayers upon it: 

1. 'Bshma d hiia nhar nhura', &c. 

2. 'Bshma d hiia asgia Manda d Hiia Ikukhbia', &c. 

3. 'Bshma d hiia f ngirtha mhathamta d nafqa minh', &c. (the 
'big 'ngirtha'). 

4. "sira hathima ruha unishimta d Plan', &c. (the 'little 'ngirtha'). 

5. 'Bshma d hiia bit mishqal ainia', &c. 

6. 'Mishqal ainia', &c. 

7. 'Bshumaihun d hiia rbia asutha uzakutha haila ushrara f mra 
ushima nhuilh Idilh Plan br Planitha' (name of dying person) 
'mn hiia', &c. (the 'audin utushbihan'j 

8. 'Bshumaihun d hiia rbia tushbihan Ihiia rbia baraiia 5 &c. 

9. 'Bshumaihun d hiia rbia ( ilkhun dilkhun', &c. 

He then issues from the cult-hut with a shganda and 
goes to the place where the dying person has been laid 
within the mandi enclosure. The latter is soused from 
head to foot three times with water taken from the mandi- 
pool, stripped, clothed in his deaih-rasta, and then invested 
with his klila. (See next chapter for these death-rites.) 
When all this has been done, the priest inserts the little 
phial of misha (the oil mingled with date juice) into the 
dasha (small right-hand pocket) of the dying man's sadra. 
The shganda puts his right hand into the right hand of the 
dying man, and if the latter cannot articulate, he speaks 
in his stead. 

Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganzlbra 1 7 1 

Ganzi&ra-elect: Kushta aslakh qatmakh (The Right make thee 

whole and raise thee up). 
Answer (of the nafaqa or departing man): B ( i washka wamar 

washtama. (Seek and find the priests translate 'Ask and 

receive' and speak and hear.) 

Ganzibra-elect: Ana asbarlakh wanat asbarlh lAbathur. (I have 
brought it to thee, and bear thou it to Abathur.) 1 

The shganda and ganzibra-elect then kiss their hands 
and touch their foreheads with them. The latter dipping 
the forefinger of his right hand into the misha in the 
keptha signs the dying person three times across the fore- 
head from right to left, and thrice across the mouth. 

When the person has died usually the shock of the 
cold water, and the excitement and exertion hasten the 
end all the priests assemble and read prayers known as 
the hathamatha (sealings) over the ganzi bra-elect. 2 If the 
death occurs towards evening, the candidate does not 
change his clothes, but he, and the senior ganzibra and 
other officiants together with all the assembly, watch all 
night by the corpse, closing the entrance to the mandi 
enclosure lest something should enter and sully the areas 
enclosed by the misri. The burial ceremonies take place 
the next dawn. 

If the death occurs early enough in the day to make it 
possible to perform all the burial rites before sunset, the 
latter are carried out immediately. The proceeding des- 
cribed above, however, is more usual, even during the 
longer summer hours of daylight, because the burial 
Ceremonies in themselves take many hours and must be 
completed before nightfall. 

It happens rarely, for Mandaeans are acute at 
recognizing signs of imminent death that the person 
thought to be dying, recovers. In that case, a maslqta is 
read in his name, but the ceremonies as far as the gan- 
zibra-elect is concerned are invalid, and he must wait until 
another suitable person is near death. 

The dead person is accompanied to the graveyard by all 
the priests, banners, and holy books that can be mustered. 
The burial does not differ from that of others, except that 

172 Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganzibra 

the little phial of oil is left in the dasha of the sadra worn 
by the corpse. The lofani of Sam Raia is eaten at the 
funeral (see next chapter) but the zidqa brikha is on a 
grand scale, for proceedings are multiplied according to 
the number of banners (see p. 195). The zidqa brikha of 
Sam Raia over, all return to their ordinary clothes. 

But the ganzibra-e\ec\?s house becomes the scene of 
merriment and festivity. Open house is kept, and the 
pious add to the feast by gifts of food, so that all who visit 
may be fed. The ganzifrra-elect may not sleep for three 
days and nights lest his purity be sullied by nocturnal 
pollution (cf. p. 154). During this period he may eat no 
meat, and must live in conditions of the severest ritual 
cleanliness, for the interval corresponds to the three days' 
interval between death and the moment when the soul of 
the deceased person is fully released from grave and body. 
On the third dawn after death the seal on the grave is 
'broken', i.e. rubbed away, and all the priests, together 
with the ganzibra-elect, repair to the mandi^ which is 
washed and cleaned as before. Preparations for a masiqta 
are made like those described in Chapter IX at the con- 
secration of the shwalia ; in fact, the masiqta which must 
be performed by the ganzi&ra-to-be in the name of the 
dead person, the bearer of the *ingirtha, does not in per- 
formance differ from that celebrated by the shwalia in the 
name of his rabbey except that two priests enter the cult- 
hut with the ganzi&ra-tobe (who is presumably in a state 
of exhaustion), and read the prayers with him so that he 
shall make no mistake, although he alone signs thefatiri 
and goes through the ritual. When the masiqta is ended, 
a zidqa brikha similar to that which followed the masiqta 
at the consecration of the mandi is celebrated. Just as the 
ganzibra in the latter impersonated the dead risfi *ama, 
the ganzibra-to-be, impersonates the dead carrier of the 
'ingirtha. I shall describe this zidqa brikha more fully in 
the last chapter, because it is peculiarly illustrative of the 
ideas that underlie this ritual meal. At its conclusion, 
without removing his rasta^ the ganzibra-elect officiates 
at a lofani in the dead person's name, the lofani being that 

Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganzlbra 173 

usual on the third day after death (see p. 197). Not until 
this is over does he return to his own house, where he 
must live a 'cut-off' existence for forty-five days, the period 
assigned for a passage through the purgatories. 

During this time the ganzibra-elect must prepare his 
own food. His diet is restricted to curds, fish, vegetable, 
and fruit, and he may touch no meat. He may not cohabit 
with his wife, and should remain in a room apart, where 
no chance pollution can invalidate his seclusion. If, in 
spite of precaution, pollution occurs, the period of seclu- 
sion must be re-begun. If nothing has prolonged the 
retreat, the ganzibra, now of full rank, performs the cere- 
mony of marriage for a priest. If no priest is found at the 
moment who is willing to get married, the ganzibra-elect 
remains in his isolated state. This rarely happens, as 
polygamy is general, and a priest is usually willing to 
contract an alliance for the sake of his colleague. If by 
some chance no opportunity to perform such a marriage 
were to occur, the ga n zi bra-to-be would remain in his 
isolation until the day of his death. I have never heard of 
such a case. 

As soon as he has performed this marriage he is released 
from his seclusion and may assume the full privileges of 
his rank. Only a ganzibra may perform the marriage of a 
Mandaean virgin to a Mandaean man. As said in another 
chapter, the marriage ceremony of a non-virgin woman is 
performed by upaisaq^ a full priest, who is debarred from 
any other ceremony but that of wedding non-virgin women. 

There is one other degree of priesthood, that of the 
risk 'ama, the 'head of the people'. None exists at present, 
and none, owing to the languishing state of the priesthood, 
is likely to exist, for a ganzibra acquires this rank auto- 
matically when he has consecrated five priests, and the 
consecration of a priest is now a rare event. For the past 
eighty years there has been no rish 'ama. The ganzibra is, 
therefore, in a very real sense the king of his people, for he 
is their intermediary in any dispute with the Government, 
or tribal shaikhs, their guide in all matters, temporal and 
spiritual, and their ultimate authority. 

1 74 Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganzlbra 

When a ganzibra marries (and most ganzivri have at 
least two wives), the ceremony must be carried out by 
another ganzibra, four priests and two shgandi for the 
layman, one ganzibra and two priests are enough. At the 
death of a ganzibra great care is taken to read the proper 
?naslqta^ and to have plentiful lofani on the first, third, 
seventh, and forty-fifth days after death. The masiqtas do 
not cost his family any great sum, unless it be as a gift to 
the officiants, for priests, like doctors in England, do not 
require payment for services rendered to one of their own 
profession. Even the food for the lofani^ which must be 
on a generous scale, is partly contributed by fellow priests 
and pious persons. 

Ganzivri and priests must only eat food prepared by 
themselves, or according to the strictest rites of purity, and 
their bread may not be baked with that of lay persons. 
Wine, tobacco, and coffee are forbidden to them, and it is 
useless to offer them food or drink if they visit you, for 
they may not accept hospitality. During the days when 
slaughter is forbidden by Mandaean religious law the diet 
of the priest is severer than that of the layman even 
eggs are forbidden to them. Priests must avoid eating 
food hot, or heated, and vegetables and fruit should be 
raw. Thus precept, but priests tell me that they eat 
cooked vegetables and think it no serious sin. Before 
eating, everything (a rule which applies to the laymen 
also) must be washed in the river, and the 'name of the 
Life and of Manda d Hiia' pronounced over it. Even the 
grain employed for the priest's bread should be thus 
lustrated, and a prayer uttered before eating (see p. 188). 
Water is the only beverage of a priest, and this must be 
taken directly from the river or spring. 

Should a priest commit a grave fault, like adultery, he 
is debarred from all duties, may not be baptized, and: 

^kth nafiq mn paghrh shaialta bnura ubarda hawia nqaria ulika ( nish 

(when he departs from his body, he shall be tortured in fire and frost, 
and call, and none shall answer him). 

Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganzlbra 175 

I have already explained that faults in ritual are not 
easily expiated. Should a priest assist at the marriage of 
a non-virgin (and matrons who examine the bride some- 
times make a mistake about her virginity), he is debarred 
from all his duties until he has received fifty full baptisms 
in new garments, while the ganzibra who officiated must 
go through 360 before he may return to his office. Shaikh 
Dukhayil and Shaikh Ruml have both gone through 
this expiation. The process is hastened, and how this is 
managed I can best explain by what I saw in Litlata in 1 934 
when an assistant priest had been polluted in this way. I 
was present at the beginning of his purification. The 
proceeding opened by a zidqa brikha in the name of the 
priest who had been defiled. This rite was performed by 
a ganzibra and two priests, one of whom had come from 
Persia for the purpose. The defiled priest wore an entirely 
new rasta and held a new margna, and was mute while his 
three friends 'ate for the dead' in his name for he is 
considered ritually dead. He sat facing the south instead 
of the north. 

The baptism (known as the 'Shitil baptism') followed. 
The preliminaries of consecration of rasta, klila, the incense 
and banner prayers were read by all three officiants 
together, while the defiled priest sat facing, and slightly 
to the left of them. While they looped up their sadri into 
their girdles, the desecrated priest rose, and, going to the 
mandi-pool, dipped his staff three times horizontally 
beneath the water, and then touched his Shorn Yawar ring 
and his myrtle wreath, but in silence. He put on his 
tagha, touching his turban, which he wound about his 
head in the usual manner. 

The actual procedure after this did not differ from the 
ordinary full baptism of a layman. But the triple immer- 
sion, triple dipping of the forehead, triple signing, triple 
drinking from the hand, was received from the first 
priest, then from the second, and then from the third, so 
that each action was repeated nine times. The baptized 
priest returned to the bank to await the chrism, while the 
three celebrants, still standing in the water, filled their 

176 Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganzibra 

qaninas by passing the bottles round their bodies in the 
water before they emerged. All three kneaded the sesame 
with water, and performed the triple signing, so that this 
action was also repeated nine times. Thus it was with 
every step of the ritual. Each action, being performed 
thrice by each of the three celebrants, had nine repetitions, 
but except for this there was nothing to distinguish this 
baptism from that administered to a layman on ordinary 
occasions, when each action is triplicated and performed 
by one priest only. (See Plate 25). 

The whole operation was repeated at noon, and again 
before sunset, so that the desecrated priest received nine 
baptisms that day. As soon as fifty baptisms have been 
performed upon him, a second zidqa brikha is read over 
him, and his purification is complete. 

The polluted ganzibras baptisms were performed in a 
similar manner, but by seven priests, so that in one day 
he got through sixty-three baptisms. Had they been 
performed by one priest, once daily, they would have 
taken a whole year, during which time he would have been 

A priest is forbidden to officiate while his wife is in her 
menses, or until she has been purified after childbirth, nor 
during these times may he even enter the sacred areas of 
the misri during a masiqta. He may not administer any 
religious rite to his own wife, but must call upon another 
priest to do so. 

I have only given examples of the difficulties which 
hedge the path of a priest : to enumerate all would fill a 
book. It is small wonder that Mandaeans say, 'Our 
religion is very difficult'. 


I. Pronunciation: Kusjita asiakh qaimakh. 
Bi weshka washtemma 
Ana aswarlakh. wanna t aszvarli lAwathur. 

The Oxford MS. F, lines 465 ff., gives a description of the ritual: 'The 
sh_ganda says to the dying man: "Seek and find and speak and hear! The 
*Uthri which thou hast worshipped and praised be to thee helpers and 


a. Tsidqa Brikh_a before baptism of polluted priest 

and r. Triple baptism of polluted priest 

Priesthood: The High Priest or Ganxtbra 177 

supporters and liberators and saviours in the great place of light and the 
radiant dwelling, and the Life be praised. And the s_hganda further says to 
the dying man, "This Kushta which I have borne thee, take it before 
Abathur".' (See JB., pp. 2-3.) I was told, however, that the priest spoke 
and the s_hganda replied. 

2. The whole ceremony is very suggestive. The person who, in his state 
of health, is 'assisted' out of life by the severe nature of the rites performed 
upon him, may represent the dying 'king-priest' to be replaced by a stronger 
and younger successor. I know of no modern ceremony which expresses 
the leit-motif 'of The Golden Bough more clearly. 

3. The paisaq becomes such at his own wish. He is usually a priest 
who, often because his earnings are slight, or because he is unable to 
perform his work competently, prefers to return to secular life. He 
receives the usual fee for performing a marriage. 





A PERSON sick unto death is watched carefully day and 
night so that he may not die in his lay clothes. A 
complete new rasta is prepared for him or her, but the stole 
(naslfa) is made long enough to cover the feet. On the 
right side of the stole, at the part which, when worn, will 
be level with the breast, a small piece of gold, or a few 
gold threads are sewn; on the left side, silver, or silver 
threads. (If the sick man be a priest, his relatives prepare 
for him the complete rasta of a priest, and he is buried 
with his insignia, the tagha^ staff, and ring.) When hope 
is abandoned, and death seems near, a priest is asked to 
consecrate a myrtle wreath. The priest gathers fresh 
myrtle, twists it into a wreath in the usual manner (see 
p. 35), and performs the minor ablution (rishama\ during 
which he wears the myrtle wreath on the little finger of his 
right hand. At the end of the ablution, he recites : 

'My Lord be praised, the Right give you health ! In the Name of 
the Great Primal Strange Life, from the sublime worlds of light 
which is above all (created) works; health and purity, strength and 
soundness, speaking and hearing, joy of heart and a forgiver of sins 
may there be for me (he names himself) who have prayed this prayer 
and (performed) devotions, and for the soul of N. son of N. (the sick 
man), of this masiqta (raising-up), and a forgiver of sins may there 
be for our forefathers and teachers, and brothers and sisters, both 
those who have left their bodies and those who are standing in their 
bodies (i.e. alive). In the strength of Yawar Ziwa and Simat Hiia.' 

He then recites the four prayers for the crown and 
wreath, repeating the 'Manda qran' twice, once for himself 
and once in the name of the sick person. Continuing the 
rahmi he recites the Baina mn hiia with his right hand to 
his head, crouches to recite a secret prayer, rises to recite 
Zhir umzahar> &c., Kth qaimia *uthria bshkhinathun^ &c., 
and 'Mar klil nhur, &c., removes the tagha from his head, 
taking care not to uncover his forehead, and the klila from 
his finger; kisses the tagha sixty-one times, carrying it to 

Death and Rites Jor the Souls of the Dead 179 

each eye alternately, and then repeats the same over the 
myrtle klila for the dying man, repeating over and over 
again as he does so (i.e. sixty-one times over both), 'Kushta 1 
asiakJi tagJiai kushta asiakh mar air (The Right give thee 
health, my crown! the Right give thee health, my lord!'). 
The reader is again reminded that the name of myrtle 
as a 2 (or as) also means 'healed' or 'made healthful', and 
that the myrtle wreath is actually looked upon as the 
bestower of health and vigour and not only as the symbol 
of these qualities. 

The priest then takes the klila to the sick person's 
family, so that it may be ready. As death approaches 
and sometimes the dying man, conscious to the last, asks 
that this may be done water is brought from the river, 
the sick man's clothes are removed, and he is soused thrice 
from head to foot. 3 If the weather is cold, part of the water 
is heated, and then mingled with the rest, so that the shock 
is less. They then lift him, place him on clean bedding 
facing the North Star (see Chap. I, note 5) and clothe 
him in his new rasta, not completing the knot of the girdle, 
or himiana. As soon as they see that he is actually passing 
away (they pull up the eyelids to ascertain this), they com- 
plete the knot of the girdle, and put the klila in its place 
beneath the turban, with the green leaves falling over the 
left temple, securing the wreath by sewing it to the turban 
so that it cannot be displaced. Similarly, the rasta is 
composed and sewn into place, lest in a dying spasm it 
should be disarranged. The long ends of the stole are 
turned up to cover the feet. 

Should the sick person, after all these preparations, 
recover, the rasta can be used as an ordinary rasta when 
the stole (nasifa orga&u e a) has been shortened and the gold 
and silver removed; but it may not be used a second time 
for a dying person. 

As soon as the person has actually died, the final knot 
and tucking in the ends of the girdle at the sides is per- 
formed. Burial cannot take place until three hours after 
death. If this interval brings the time near sunset, the 
funeral is postponed until the next morning. Four hallali^ 

1 80 Death and "Rites for the Souls of the Dead 

i.e. four ritually pure men, suwadi (laymen), and not 
priests, are appointed to perform the last offices. These 
hallali must not be blind, deaf, lame, or have any physical 
blemish, and their ris_h (head) or ab (father) the chief 
hallali must be married and the father of children. When 
summoned for the burial, these four men perform the 
rishama, put on their rastas, and the risk slips into his 
belt a haftless iron knife (sakin dola) attached by a chain to 
the skandola ring which he places on the little finger of his 
right hand (see p. 37). A priest tells me that the sakin dola 
knife used at burials should bear the inscribed words 
Gauriil Ishliha (Gabriel the Messenger). 

Meanwhile, the women prepare for the lofani> or ritual 
meal. Laufa^ (pronounced /of a) and lofani are the words 
employed generally for ritual eating for the dead. They 
seem to mean 'knitting together', 'uniting', and may be 
translated 'communion', since it really does imply that the 
souls of the departed and the souls of the living are united 
in the sacramental act of eating, and that strength is im- 
parted by the ritual food and drink both to those living 
in this world and to those who have left it. 

As soon as the news has spread, the neighbours flock 
in to lend the bereaved family pots and pans, and to assist 
in the grinding of flour and baking of bread, while vege- 
tables, fruits, fish, and a sheep or birds for slaughter must 
also be procured as quickly as possible. Weeping is 
forbidden. Mandaean women must not scatter dust over 
their heads, nor tear garments and hair, nor beat their 
breasts and leap in funeral dances like their neighbours, 
for Moslems, Jews, and Christians of the humble classes all 
manifest grief in these ways. Tears become a river which 
the soul of the departed must ford, and torn hair forms 
entanglements about his feet, say the Subba. (Zoroastrians 
used the same metaphor: see K.R.C., 76, from the 
Pahlavi Fir of namefi). Nevertheless, passing the house 
where a Subbi had just died, I heard lamentation coming 
from the walled yard, and I shall not easily forget the 
figure of a young girl, who, having just heard of the death 
of a brother, cast herself repeatedly on the wet ground with 

Death and Rites jor the Souls of the "Dead 1 8 1 

shrill cries of grief, until with her hair, face, and clothes 
matted with mud, she looked like a living clay figure. 
On the other hand, I was stopped recently in Qal'at Salih 
by an old man I knew. His white hair flew in the wind, 
and his face was shining and ecstatic. 'My brother died 
this morning ! Splendid, splendid ! I have forbidden the 
women to weep ! ' There was special cause for his joy, for 
to die at the sacred season of Panja means that the soul of 
the deceased will fly quickly to the worlds of light, and 
escape the dangers and tortures of the purgatories. 

The dead must be watched constantly, and beside the 
spot on which -he or she died are set a dish of water, 
constantly renewed, a piece of stone or marble, and a light 
burning on a chair, table or stool, for there must be no 
darkness in the room. Some dispense with the lamp by 
day, saying that the sun itself provides the light. Others 
call the light 'the fire*. These three, the 'fire' or 'light', 
the stone (earth ?) and the water, remain where they were 
placed until the third day has passed. 

Gasab reeds, bardi (also reeds but thinner), 4 jerids or 
palm-frond stalks, and palm-leaf ropes must also be 
procured, ritually washed, and set ready for the hallali. A 
priest or hallali must then construct the mandelta (or 
mandeltha, both pronunciations are used). This is a triple 
betyl, set up in the courtyard of the dead man's house. 
An exact ritual must be followed in its construction. 

The Mandelta. An oval hole, about a yard in length, is 
dug with a spade. It should be a little more than a hand 
in depth. Into this a bundle of gas a & reeds is placed up- 
right, loose, and not bound, and broken off to about 3 or 
3! feet. Next, three reeds are placed on the ground in 
front of the bundle, and three reeds behind : 

FIG. io, 

1 8 2 Death and Rites Jor the Souls of the Dead 

The bundle is divided into three loose sheaves. A reed 
bruised and softened by immersion in water and split into 
a ribbon, is run beneath A and B, brought twice round the 
first bundle, and the ends twisted and pushed down be- 
tween B and the bundle to secure them. The three 
bundles are thus all bound into compact sheaves, the 
binder beginning at the right bundle and the softened 
reed-band being brought round from left to right. A 
somewhat complicated process follows. A reed band is 
thrust into the middle of each sheaf and passed round it 
first on the right half and then round the left, in each case 
passing round the two horizontal bundles as well, after 
which a band is brought round the whole sheaf and secured 
as before, i.e. by twisting the ends and thrusting them 
down underneath. Thus each sheaf has three bonds. 
The reeds are then cut even at the top, so that they stand 
about a foot and a quarter from the level of the ground. 
Next the six horizontal reeds, A and B, are cut through, 
so that each sheaf stands separate from its neighbours. 
Finally, a long, bruised,- and softened reed is laid with its 
head to the right, brought round all three sheaves and 
fastened in the usual manner. Earth is thrown lightly 
round the bundles, so that the bonds are slightly covered, 
and the mandelta is complete except for sealing. 

The head hallali and his three comrades, together with 
a priest, now assemble in the courtyard of the dead man. 
The priest has previously performed his minor ablution 
(rishama\ said a complete rahmi, consecrated his rasta^ and 
given all the necessary cult-objects ablution. He has also 
brought with him the holy books, wrapped in a white cloth. 

All take their stand facing the North Star (house of 
Abathur) and the priest recites : 

l Bshumaihun d hiia rbia laufa urwaha d hiia ushabiq hataiia 
nhuilh lhaza nishimta d Plan br Planitha d haza masiqta ushabiq 
hataiia nhuilhS 

'In the Name of the Great Life! Laufa (Lofa, communion) and 
the rwaha (lit. causing to breathe again, i.e. re-vivification) of the 
Life and a forgiver of sins may there be for this soul of N. son of N. of 
this masiqta 5 (masekhtha) and a forgiver of sins may there be for him.' 

Death and Rites Jor the Souls of the Dead 183 

All the hallali then bind their pandamas over their 
mouths and noses, placing juri (the common pink roses 
of Iraq) or other sweet-smelling flowers between the 
stuff of the -pandama and their noses, so that 'the smell of 
death shall not reach them'. 

The Bania. The bardi are laid loosely spread out on the 
ground, and are according to the size of the dead man 
there is no stipulation as to number or length. Four palm- 
leaf ropes, each four gamdt in length, are required for the 
weaving of the bania^ which is prepared beforehand. (A 
gama is the distance between finger-tips and finger-tips 
when a man stands with both arms outstretched.) A loop 
is tied in the middle of each rope, and these are set to the 
south of the bardi, the workers facing the north. The two 
ends of the rope are loosely looped over the hands of the 
weavers to facilitate working, and then they are twisted in 
and about the rushes with a space between each slender 
bundle of rushes and the next, forming a light fabric. 
When this is of the required breadth, work is stopped, 
and the ends of the ropes are left lying at the North. 

The hallali must next prepare the kursi, or bier. 

The kursi is made beside the corpse. The method of 
construction is similar to that of the bania, but reeds are 
used, and the fabric is bound to three palm-frond stems 
{jerid) which are placed between two layers of reeds, the 
rope being passed first round a few reeds of the lower layer, 
then round thejerid, then round a few reeds of the upper 
layer and then again round the^'m^in a reverse direction. 
No knots are tied. ThejerJds (palm-frond stems) form the 
handles of the bier. During the weaving, the three hallalis 
sit 'facing the rising sun', i.e. east, whilst the head hallali 
sits opposite, facing the 'setting sun'. 

When all is ready the hallali^ who must be barefoot, 
like all who take any part in the subsequent burial cere- 
monies, lift the corpse, place it on the bania^ then transfer 
the body on the bania to the kursi. The body is finally 
secured by passing the loose ends of ropes left in the bania 
round the whole, passing them through the loops already 
mentioned. This is to prevent the corpse becoming 

184 Death and "Rites j or the Souls of the Dead 

disarranged, or falling off. The four bearers then shoulder 
the bier, the risk walking at the right of the corpse's 
head. During the moving of the body, and during the 
passage to the graveyard, manoeuvring ensures that the 
corpse does not once change its direction facing north, 
so that if the dead man were stood upright, he would face 
the North Star. 

The funeral procession moves out of the courtyard, and 
the bearers must step over the mandelta. As soon as they 
have done this, they halt, and the risk, turning back, 
stoops and daubs each of the three betyls with wet mud, 
after which he seals them with the skandola, repeating the 
formula quoted above. He then resumes his place as 
bearer, and the procession, accompanied by men only, 
proceeds to the graveyard. The reason why women are 
not allowed to follow is that they may be in a state of 
impurity. This would be harmful to the soul of the dead, 
and render the death ceremonies useless. 

The graveyard is usually in the open spaces about. the 
village or town, and is hardly distinguishable from the 
ground around it, for a Subbi rarely erects any kind 
of tomb over the dead. 'What is the good?' I heard 
them say. 'The body is dirt and rubbish when once the 
soul has left it ! ' So, after a while, the mound sinks, and 
becomes level with the soil, and no mark or stone distin- 
guishes one grave from another. Of late years, however, 
some wealthier Mandaeans, copying their neighbours, 
have begun to erect brick tombs with the name of the 
buried person on a slab. These are condemned by the 
pious, and are so rare that in a whole Subbi graveyard one 
or two at most will be seen. There is a tradition that burial 
in earth was not always a Mandaean custom. I have heard 
this from several Subbis. To quote Shaikh Nejm: 

JL ^^^^-m ^_MH J 

'Once our funeral was like that of the Persians. We placed our 
dead in an open place, surrounded by a wall, and birds came and ate 

Others have added 'wild beasts' and omitted the wall. 
Of course, the body was watched during the first three 

Death and Rites jor the Souls of the Dead 1 8 5 

days and nights, and only abandoned when the soul was 
supposed to have left it. 6 

On arrival at the graveyard, the risk of the hallali takes 
a spade and digs three times with it into the soil, repeating 
the prayer quoted above, on p. 182. 

Meanwhile the tarmida who is to officiate at the lofani 
(if there is no priest available, a hallali will do) has followed 
the funeral procession to the graveyard, bringing with 
him a qintha (see p. 106), a fire-saucer (brihf), fuel which 
has received ablution, a dravsha (drabsha, banner), and 
holy books. He makes a rishama in the river in the name 
of the deceased, followed by a rahmi (also in the name of 
the dead man), and sets up his apparatus, with the dravsha 
planted in the ground to the right of it, at a little distance 
from the tomb, and to the south of it. He then reads from 
the left side of the Ginza, which is entirely concerned 
with death and the fate of the soul in the next world. If no 
priest is available, the hallali who takes his place does not 
read, but, instead, he recites : 

(Pronunciation) 'Bshmeyhun ad haiy rabbi lofa urwaha ad haiy 
ushaveq hottoyi nhuili al haza nishimta ad Plan bra Planeytha ad 
haza masekhtha ushaveq hottoyi nihuili dabahathan urubanan udahan 
udahawathan ad anfaq min paghreyhun walqeymi bipaghreyhun 
timrun qaiamen haiy bushkhinathun haiy zakhen al kulhun iwadi. ' 

('In the name of the Great Life, Laufa (uniting, communion, see 
p. 1 80), and the re-vivification of the Life, and a Remitter of Sins 
shall there be for the soul of N. son of N. of this masiqta^ and a 
Remitter of sins shall there be for our fathers and teachers and 
brothers and sisters, (both) those who have departed from their 
bodies and those who stand in their bodies. Ye shall say, "The Life 
is established in its dwellings." And Life is victorious over all 
its creations.') 

Meanwhile, the digging of the grave is in process. The 
depth is not prescribed, but there must be a hollowed-out 
space behind the head, left unfilled with earth and called 
the lahad (Arabic 'niche or cavity in a tomb'). The corpse 
is then laid in the tomb, always facing the north, and a few 
stones are placed on the rasta of the dead man, and one 
on his mouth. The legend told to explain this is that once, 

4363 B b 

1 86 Death and 'Rites for the Souls of the Dead 

after a man had died, his family began to die, too, one 
after the other. They went to the ganzibra, who counselled 
that they should dig up the man who had first died and 
examine the corpse. They did so, and found that the 
kinzala (stole) had been stuffed into the mouth of the 
corpse. The origin of this and other precautions is pro- 
bably fear that the dead man may return and attempt to 
take his loved ones with him the result of infectious 
diseases such as plague, which strikes down member after 
member of a household. Mandaeans say that for the 
three days during which the spirit and soul are attached 
to the body by lessening ties, the uneasy soul wanders 
backwards and forwards between its own house and the 
grave. I presume that the mandelta is intended to prevent 
the dead from harming the living. It may be a 'spirit- 
house' as in China. Sometimes a second kursi of qasab 
(reeds) is laid above the body. The head hallali^ facing 
the north, next takes the spade and throws dust three 
times over the corpse, saying each time, 'In the Name of the 
Great Life, Laufa and rwaha (see above) of the Life, and 
a forgiver of sins there shall be for this soul of N. son of N. 
of this masiqta, and a forgiver of sins there shall be for me*. 

The grave is filled in by others, and a mound made. 
Then the head hallali stoops, moistens the dust on the 
four sides of the grave, and seals the mud so made, 
beginning at the head, with the impression of the skandola. 
After three days he returns and removes these impres- 
sions, 7 because all need of 'protecting' the body is at an 
end. When the sealing is complete, he takes the haftless 
iron knife attached to the ring (the sekkin dowla) and traces 
a furrow (misra) round the grave three times in the dust. 
This ceremony must be of ancient, probably Iranian, 
origin, since the Parsis have a similar usage. 8 

At the moment that the body is being lowered into the 
tomb the lofani (or ritual meal) is begun. This lofani is 
called the 'Sam Raia' after Sam, son of Noah. The legend 
is that Sam, who was the progenitor of the Subba race, 
and a shepherd, lived after the Flood to a great age. When 
he was 750 years old, he had become infirm, and could no 

Death and Rites jor the Souls of the Dead 187 

longer perform the rishama without help. The Seven 
Planets appeared to him and began to tempt him with 
visions of this world, but in vain, for Sam was weary of his 
body and the imperfections of this world and longed for 
the world of light. Then he perceived Hibil Ziwa in the 
shape of a priest, who said to him, 'Rise and make thy 
rishama! 1 Sam replied that, owing to infirmity, he was 
unable to do so without help. Hibil Ziwa repeated his 
command, and Sam, rising, felt that his body had become 
as strong and light as that of a man of twenty-four. He 
performed the rishama, and Hibil Ziwa offered him the 
alternative of a continuation of this miraculous youth, so 
that he might live out a span of a thousand years, or that 
he should leave his body and proceed towards the worlds 
of light. Standing there, in all youthful strength, the old 
man chose the latter. So he died, and Hibil Ziwa in- 
structed the priests and Mandaeans, his children, who had 
gathered together, how to prepare the body for death, the 
rites for burial, and how lofani must be eaten for the dead. 
Hence the name, 'Laufa of Sam the Shepherd'. The 
familiar name in the Arabic mixed with Mandaean is 
the 'Thuwab Sam bar Nuh' (Clothes for Sam son of 

The Laufa or Lofani of Sam Raia (for the burial) 

A freshly washed piece of white cotton cloth or linen, 
or a reed mat, or even a bed of reeds, or chopped straw, is 
spread on the ground, and upon this are laid : 

1. Flat loaves of bread. The flour used in baking is ground from 
grain washed, and dried in the sun on a white cloth. (Lahma^ 
often termed shumbulta i.e. wheat, at ritual meals.) 

2. Baked fish (brmda or nuna] prepared by the priest. (Must be 
a 'clean' i.e. lawful, fish.) 

3. Roast morsels of fat from the liyah (suet at base of tail) of a 
slaughtered sheep, 9 if the bereaved family can afford one; if 
not, the roast flesh of such lawful birds as the bee-eater, 
partridge, or dove, is substituted. If a dove, it is called ba. 

4. Coco-nut (nargild). This is imported from India as there are 
no coco-nut palms in Iraq. 

1 8 8 Death and Rites j or the Souls of the Dead 

5. Long almonds (anguza). Imported from Persia. None in 

6. Walnut (amuza). Imported from Persia. Rarely grown in 
Iraq, and then only in the North. 

7. Pomegranate (rumana). This grows in Iraq, but is not 
always in season. As this is one of the five most sacred foods 
(see masiqta^ p. 158) dried seeds are used when the fruit is out 
of season. 

8. Quince (sfargila). Usually obtainable. When out of season 
in Iraq, imported from Persia. 

9. Onion (kiwara). Obtainable always. 

10. Grapes or raisins (anba). Grapes are obtainable locally when 
in season but raisins usually imported. 

1 1 . Salt (mlhld). 

In addition to these essential foods, or tabutha, fruit 
and vegetables in season are added. I have been told by 
men of the priestly clan that in early times no meat or fish 
were eaten at lofani for the reason that taking life is a sin, 
but other priests deny this. 

The men who are to partake of the ritual meal sit two 
and two in pairs. Each pair hold a flat loaf of bread 
between them with the right hand, repeating the formula 
pronounced upon all food, (including the daily domestic 
meal) : 

'The name of the Life and the name of Manda d Hiia are 
pronounced upon thee, O Good Thing (tabta) (wholesome food) 
of Yawar Ziwa and Simat Hiia!' 

Tabta, pronounced tafta, plural tabutha, is a word 
applied not only to ritual foods but to all wholesome 
and lawful food. The root has a meaning of imparting 
health, of being healthy, or living. In the colloquial 
Arabic of Iraq hua tayyib is used generally as meaning, 
'he is alive'. Nta tayyib is a polite way of announcing 
a death (the unexpressed being 'He is dead but') 'thou 
livest'. Tab taba Itabia expresses this idea. 

Each pair break the bread in half, eat several mouth- 
fuls, and then all drink out of a common bowl of water 
freshly brought from the river, saying, while drinking, 
pair by pair: 

Death and Rites for the Souls of the Dead 189 

A. 'Brikhat marai mshabaf (Thou art blessed and praised, my lord !) 

B. 'Asutha nhuilaktf (Health be thine!) 

A. 'Sutha nhmlkhun tabta brikhta thuttkhuri* (Wholeness be yours, 
blessed tabta be yours!') 

After the bowl has passed from pair to pair, all stretch 
out their right hands and arms (previously washed) towards 
the food, holding a fragment of the bread wrapped round 
scraps of the food in their closed fingers. The priest or lay 
officiant then says : 

* "In the name of the Life and in the name of Manda d Hiia" 
is pronounced upon thee, O Tabta (wholesome food). Approach 
the goodness of the Life and the good things of Life and Manda d 
Hiia spoke, who pronounced the name of the Life: "Tab, taba 
Itabia 1 " 1 (a prayer, viz. Good [health] and goodness are for those who 
are good) and their names (or family) shall be established who honour 
the names (of the dead). We seek and find, and speak and listen. We 
have sought and found, and spoken and listened in thy presence 
(lit. before thee), my lord, Manda d Hiia, lord of healings. Forgive 
him (the dead man) his sins and trespasses, follies, stumblings, and 
mistakes, and forgive those who prepared this bread and masiqta 
and wholesome food. (Forgive) their sins and trespasses and foolish- 
nesses and mistakes, my lords Manda d Hiia and Great Primal Life, 
also those of the givers (lords) of alms and pious acts, they, their 
wives, their children, and their priests, and those of N. son of N. of 
this masiqta^ and a forgiver of sins may there be for me, and for my 
father, mother, teachers and wives, children and priests; and for 
those who prepared this bread and tabutha (life-giving food), and for 
you, my fathers (forebears) and teachers and tutors and instructors, 
when ye were supported from the Left to the Right. And ye shall 
say, "Life is established in its dwellings". And Life is praised, and 
Life is victorious over all (created) works.' 

All the company then carry the handful of food held 
outstretched to their mouths. When they have eaten the 
first sacred handful, they consume what is before them 
until they are satisfied. If there are no Mandaean poor 
present to finish what is left over, the remainder, with any 
crumbs or fragments, is thrown into the river, for not the 
least atom must fall to the ground. 10 

After finishing the /of am, all reassemble at the grave, 
which has by this time been filled in and sealed as described 

1 90 Death and Rites for the Souls of the Dead 

above, and say, 'The Great Life spoke and opened its 
(their) mouth(s) in its (their) own radiance and light and 
glory, and Life be praised!' 11 

Then the hallali^ unfastening their pandamas, scatter 
the flowers that had been bound to their mouths and noses 
upon the newly made grave. If a priest has led the lofani 
and reading, he unbinds his pandama and removes his 
tagha with the usual prayers of ritual, but prefaces them 
by two prayers (i) (the baina mn Hiia) (that the Life and 
Manda d Hiia, the *utkrh and 'kings of the world of light' 
may accept 'this high treasure', forgive what has been 
lacking or remiss in it, and forgive the sins of the dead, 
so that Habshaba may free the dead person from the 
Mataratha and take him to the high world of light); 
(2) A prayer uttered silently in a crouching position. 

The people disperse, and the hallali, together with all 
who have touched the corpse or things brought into con- 
tact with it, go down to the river and perform the complete, 
triple immersion (tamasha). 12 

The same day a zidqa brikha (blessed act of piety) 
should be performed by a priest, several priests, or, if none 
is available, by a layman. This zidqa brikha^ viz. that 
performed the day of burial (for there are several kinds, 
as I shall presently explain), is called the zidqa brikha of 
Sam Raiia. 

The Zidqa Brikha after Burial 

This zidqa brikha may be performed either in the mandi 
area (though not within the mandi itself), in the court- 
yard of the priest's or ganzivra's house (if they are close 
enough to the river), or in a place near the river. As said 
above, if no priest is available, a layman (who should be a 
hallalj) may perform this zidqa brikha^ but the ceremony 
is then a shortened one, and loses much of its efficacy. The 
celebrants, or celebrant, must be barefoot. 

If the latter is a priest, and has a banner, he plants its 
iron-shod foot in the ground well to the right and east of 
the other ritual objects. These are: 

i. A qintha (box of unbaked clay with a tray-like top, resembling 

Death and Rites for the Souls of the Dead 191 

the toriana in that it has a misra or recess. In the latter stands 
the qauqa, i.e. the incense-cube, and to the left of it, on the lid, 
stands the fire-saucer). See Fig. 6, p. 107. 

2. A toriana or clay table, large enough for several persons to sit 
around it. If the celebrant has no toriana^ he digs the ground 
a little with a spade, smooths it, throws clean water from the 
river over it, daubs it over with clean wet mud, and when the 
sun has dried it, sweeps and cleans it, then, taking an iron 
knife or other iron implement, makes a furrow, or misra^ 
around it in a circle about the size of a big toriana. In 
addition, he makes four small circles surrounded by misri 
at the four points of the compass (girbia^ timia^ madna^ and 
marba), outside and touching the circumference of the larger 

3. In the centre of the big toriana or its substitute, he places a 
kangana, (ring of unbaked clay) and upon that a small toriana 
of the usual ritual size and pattern (see Plate 1 1 a]. In its 
recess, or misra^ however, a small heap of salt is placed instead 
of the usual incense cube. 

Along the northern edge of the small toriana he ranges 
small morsels of various eatables. These are: 

1. Fish (previously ceremonially washed and roasted by the 

2. Onion. 

3. Pomegranate seeds. 

4. Long almonds. 

5. Shelled walnuts. 

6. Quince. 

7. Coco-nut. 

8. Grapes or raisins. 

9. Any other fruits or vegetables in season. 

On the southern side of the smaller toriana (B) in my 
diagram, is D, the keptha set ready for the reception of the 
first three fatiri and the sa. On the big toriana (A), upon 
which the smaller (B) stands, more vegetables and fruits 
are heaped, an empty keptha (E) for water, and another 
keptha for two fatiri. 

Everything used, except salt and fuel, receives triple 
ablution in the river and the blessing, 'The Name of the 



Arrangement of Zidqa Brikha for day of burial. 

FIG. n. 

Death and Rites jor the Souls of the Dead 193 

Life, &c. The fuel placed in the fire-saucer on the qintha may 
be of either charcoal or wood. It will be remembered that 
at the masiqta only lustrated wood and reeds may be used. 

The Making of the Five Fatiri and Sa 

I have described the preparation of the flour above. 
Salt is sprinkled on it, and a sjrganda holds this ready while 
the priest washes hands and arms at the river. The 
assistant, coming to him, then places into the priest's wet 
palm enough of the flour and salt for one fatira. The 
tarmida mixes it with water, and kneads it in the palm of 
his hand. The fatira should be about the size of, but thinner 
than, an English crumpet. When patted into shape, each 
little loaf is baked in the fire-saucer, then placed on the 
toriani. The first three are placed on keptha D as said 
above, and the other two on keptha E. The priest then 
makes the sa. 

This, kneaded in the hand and baked in ashes like the 
fatira^ is a roll about 4 inches long. In a recent article 
('The Kaprana' in Orient and Occident l , The Gaster 
Anniversary Volume, London, Taylor's Foreign Press, 
1937) I have pointed out the similarity of the sa 
to the Nestorian kaprana, a dough object of identical 
shape which plays a part in the Qurbana, and appears to 
be a relic of some ancient fertility and life cult. That 
the sa is a phallic emblem one would suspect from its 
form and size. The reference which puzzled Lidzbarski 
(Q. 107), pihla d *l shum hiia pla, obviously refers to it. 
The same expression occurs in a zidqa brikha ritual pur- 
chased by me in 1936, again with the mention of tabutha. 
(See note 9 to this chapter for the context.) 

When the sa is baked, the priest places it above the 
three fatiri in keptha D, performs his rishama, and con- 
secrates his tagha. He makes an alteration in the first 
prayer for the tagha : 

'My Lord be praised, the Right make you whole ! In the name of 
the Great Primal Strange Life from the sublime worlds of light, 
which is supreme above all (works), health and purity, strength and 
soundness (sharard), speaking and hearing, joy of heart and a 

4363 C C 

1 94 Death and Rites j "or the Souls of the Dead 

forgiver of sins may there be for me, N. son of N. (his own name) 
who have offered this prayer and devotion, and a forgiver of sins 
may there be for N. son of N. (the name of the dead person), of this 
masiqta^ and our first forefathers and great ones and brothers and 
sisters, both those who have left the body and those who are standing 
in the body. In the strength of Yawar Ziwa and Simat Hiia.' 

The usual prayers for the consecration of the tagha 
follow and at the prayer, 'Manda created me,' he slips a 
klila of myrtle onto his little finger. He goes to the river, 
dips his right hand and arm in the water, holding the 
margna in the crook of his left arm, and returns to crouch 
in front of the toriani^ then repeating in slightly shortened 
form the prayer given on p. 188 : * "In the Name of the 
Life and in the Name of Manda d hiia" be pronounced 
upon thee, O Good Thing (Tabtay, &c. 

Taking the sa, he breaks it in two, and eats a fragment 
of it thrice; then three morsels from each of the five 
fatiri and thrice from every kind of eatable on the toriani. 
Next, he fills keptha E at the river, or from a freshly-filled 
qanina if the river is not close. Sometimes, there is no 
keptha E, and he merely scoops up, or pours, a little 
water into the palm of his hand. He drinks water thrice, 
saying : 

Priest. 'Thou art blessed, my lord, and praised ]' 
Those present. 'Health be thine !' 

Priest. 'The health of Life be yours! Blessed food (Tabta brikhta] 
be yours!' 

He then recites the prayer known as 'our First Fore- 
fathers' (Abahathan qadmaiia) the Tab> taba Itabia given 
and translated by Lidzbarski (Q. 129), followed by the 
invocation and blessing of ancestors and the dead be- 
ginning with the spirits of light, melki and 'uthri, and 
then Adam, First Man, son of Qin (i.e. the physical, 
not the spiritual Adam), famous figures of religious 
history, and early ancestors whose names have been 
preserved without any record of why they are so care- 
fully retained in the liturgy; then follows the name of 
the priest himself, his father, mother, wife, children, 
teachers, &c., the name of the dead man himself, and 

Death and Rites J or the Souls of the Dead 195 

his relations, to which may be added names suggested 
by any present who wish dead to be remembered. After 
each name is said 'A forgiver of sins may there be for him' 
(or 'her', as the case may be). I have quoted this prayer 
in full in the next chapter, pp. 2 19 ff. 

When this prayer is at an end, he puts his hand to his 
head while reciting the Baina mn hiia umn.maria, crouches 
and recites a secret prayer silently, and then proceeds with 
the usual prayers for the deconsecration of the tagha^ 
&c., the klila is cast into the river, and he returns with 
his apparatus and dravsha to his house. 

This is the simplest form of burial zidqa brikha^ and the 
average fee paid by the bereaved family is nine dirhems 
(nine shillings), though more than double that sum is often 

More elaborate forms of this zidqa brikha are performed 
at the death of a priest, or ganzibra^ or a person wealthy 
enough to pay for them. Two, or three, or seven priests 
may officiate. If there are two priests and two banners, 
the arrangement as indicated in the diagram is simply 
duplicated, and the ritual duplicated except that two sai 
one for each inner toriana are made, and that, at the 
solemn breaking of bread, the two priests break one sa 
between them. 

If there are two priests and one banner, two sai are made, 
but the set or arrangement oftoriani is the same as for one 
priest and one banner, except that the priests divide a sa 
between them at the breaking of the bread. 

If there are three priests and three banners, the arrange- 
ments, or sets, are triplicated, and one sa is made at each 
set. Two priests sit facing one for the breaking of bread, 
and the sa is broken between them. 

If there are three priests and one banner, the arrange- 
ment is the same as for one priest and one banner, but two 
sai are made, one being placed on the inner, and one on 
the outer fatiri. The three priests sit round the big 

If four, or seven priests are taking part, two big toriani 
(or sets of toriani, big and small), and two banners are 

1 9 6 Death and Rites for the Souls of the Dead 

usual. The priests sit, four at the left set (in two pairs), 
and three, of whom the ganzibra is one, at the right-hand 
toriana. Should there be seven banners and seven priests, 
each has a set, and the arrangements and ritual for one 
priest and one banner are multiplied by seven. 

Even then the ceremonies for the day of burial are not 
complete. When the zidqa brikha is over, the priest goes 
to the house of the dead person, taking with him the Ginza 
Rba and other holy books (all are spoken of as ginzi, trea- 
sures) and his apparatus for lofani. The bereaved family 
have baked many loaves (all bread made by the people of 
Iraq for ordinary domestic use is flat, unleavened, and 
round). The average number is about thirty. Upon the 
ground of the courtyard they spread a reed mat, or a large 
metal tray, or even an ' aba (cloak-coat of the country), and 
if these are not absolutely new and clean, a white cloth is 
laid above the mat, or 'aba, or whatever it may be. Upon 
this the bread and all foods necessary for lofani are placed. 
The four corpse-bearers (the hallali\ and all who attended 
the funeral, assemble round this, and the lofani performed 
at the tomb is repeated. A loaf is broken between each 
pair, several mouthfuls of everything spread before them 
are eaten, and all drink from a common bowl of water, 
the niara, with the responses given on page 189. They 
take a piece of the soft bread, and wrap in it some of 
the various foods spread before them, then extend the 
right hand over, or towards, the centre dish, while the 
priest reads the prayer, 'In the name of the Life' as on 
page 189. 

Then all eat till satisfied, and the women and children 
follow the men ; what is over being either eaten by needy 
persons (hasab al-thuwab as they say), or thrown into the 
river. Reading from the holy books, especially from 
the Ginza, is kept up night and day, either by a priest 
or yalufa, until the morning of the third day after death. 13 
This is to help the bewildered and defenceless soul, which 
still lingers on earth. The links between soul and body 
are not quickly severed. The Tafsir Paghra likens the 
gradual quitting of the soul to the gradual extinguishing 

Death and Rites j or the Souls of the Dead 197 

of wicks of a lamp. A lay Mandaean's account of what 
happens at dissolution is: 

'At death, the death angel, Sowriil (Sauriil: Azraelj comes, but 
Qamamir Ziwa descends to help the pure soul and defend it from 
harm. Qamamir Ziwa and Shahabriil Ziwa 14 are forms of Hiwel 
(Hibil) Ziwa. Sowriil comes from the Darkness to claim the soul 
when it leaves the body. When the time comes (i.e. on the third 
day, E.S.D.) for the soul to part altogether from the body, it is like 
a thing in a deep sleep, and only gradually becomes aware of its 
condition. It is heavy di ! and sees not. Then, suddenly, the 
soul frees itself of this heaviness. It sees Sowriil and Qamamir 
Ziwa 15 waiting for it, the one a spirit of darkness and the other a 
spirit of light. When it leaves the body the soul is in the shape of 
a person, wearing clothes, but it is of air and not substantial. We 
cannot see it. If an evil-doer, the garments it wears are black, and 
if it asks, "Why am I clothed in black ?" these two melki answer it, 
"Are there not sacred books, given to man since the time of Adam ? 
Hast thou not beheld sun, moon, and stars ? Thou hast reason, didst 
thou ask whether they were the work of man or of God ?" The soul 
says to them, "Let me return into the body again ! I will be good, 
I will become ^faqir and do good!" They say to it, "There is no 
escape! Who that is dead returns? Hast never seen a dead man? 
Hast never watched a man die ?" 

'Then the nishimta goes to Pthahil, who gave wisdom to Solo- 
mon, and is led to its place of purification in the Mataratha.' 

I have already spoken of the belief that the soul passes 
at dissolution into the cast-off ethereal body of the 

On release from the body and the tomb, a priest told me, 
the soul goes 'like a bullet' towards the realm of Pthahil, 
flying over the great white mountain called Sur, behind 
which are the Mataratha. These are literally 'watch- 
houses' (ntr) and ezchmatarta is watched over, or ruled, by 
a planetary spirit or spirit of light. At the 'gate' of 
Mataratha, the soul is received with refreshment pro- 
portionate to the ritual meals eaten in his name on earth, 
a banquet of the ethereal doubles of the earthly tabutha, 
and knows that its kinsmen have remembered it. The 
third-day lo/ani, therefore, is on as grand a scale as 
possible, as many as seven sheep being slaughtered for a 

198 Death and Rites J or the Souls of the 

rich family. Food of all kinds (except those f 
lofant) are eaten, including rice, cream, hone) 

The first journey through the Mataratha 
five days, or in the case of a 'perfect' soul, fort 
passed through the first gate on the third da;; 
on its way, strengthened by the private 
which are eaten constantly in its name. On 
day the soul reaches a second great portal th: 
it must pass, and a general lofani like that wh 
performed on the third day is eaten in its nam 
(spirits who inhabit the Mataratha) offer th 

After the seventh day the women return 1 
pans borrowed from their neighbours, for 
general lofani again until the forty-fifth day, 
day on which the soul should reach the Scales 
The meal a general lofani eaten then ( 
friends and relations, gives the soul life and 
its ordeal. Its good and evil deeds are wei 
each other. If the evil deeds outweigh the go< 
equal, the soul remains in Mataratha to rece 
tion and punishment adapted to its sin. 17 li 
quarrelsome, it goes to the Matarta of Nirig 
vainglorious, to that of Bil (Jupiter). Especia 
are reserved for priests. Amongst the Matar 
the seven planets, but the worlds of the s 
Pthahil and of Habshaba and others provi 
purification. Expiation is adapted to the crirr 
for the evil include fire and ice, being com 
iron comb, or bitten by snakes, lions, wolve 
If altogether evil, the soul descends into 
c Ur, which is alternately ice and fire, only to 
purification at the end of the world, when 
undergoing purification are carried upwards 
of light and life, or by Habshaba himself, an 
of mercy, are dipped into the heavenly waters 
Ziwa, the heavenly yardna, in a great final 

If the soul is that of a pious person, its 

wls of the Dead 

;pt those forbidden for 
:am, honey, and curds, 
vlataratha takes forty- 
' soul, forty. 16 Having 
e third day it proceeds 
private family lofanh 
lame. On the seventh 
: portal through which 
that which has been 
in its name. The deyvi 
a) offer the soul fresh 

jn return the pots and 
>ours, for there is no 
-fifth day, which is the 

the Scales of Abathur. 

;n then on earth by 
il life and strength for 

s are weighed against 
igh the good, or weigh 
tha to receive purifica- 
s sin. 17 If it has been 
ta of Nirigh (Mars), if 
). Especial purgatories 
the Mataratha not only 
; of the seven sons of 
lers provide places of 
to the crime. Tortures 
Deing combed with an 
3ns, wolves, and dogs, 
nds into the belly of 
re, only to receive final 
>rld, when spirits still 

upwards by the forces 
limself, and, by an act 
nly waters of the Frash 
great final baptism of 

person, its purification 

Death and 

does not take lor 
the Scales, and i 
purest human be 

'After it has passe 
Star, Awathur, wh 
Star, but that star 
soul; in the other, 
human souls. His s 
it is written that 2 
(Alaha^ for Moslen 
terms] wished to cal 
on earth. His reqi 
years, God sent to s 
a second respite. A: 
said, "Take Shitil ir 
old and have not y 
for Adam, only ask 
the angel of death.' 

If the soul we 
back for re-purifi 
borne over the rh 
celestial habitatio 
His ultimate dwc 
or of Hibil Ziwa, 
spirit of light, fo 

I have given 1 
death. One gai 
declared Matara 
nothing but a bo 
he said, 'is Mate 
to prove that the 
release, to the wo 
ally, strengthene 
eaten in his name 
Shedding off its 
of the cocoon, it 
double, and then, 
through the thre 
to ultimate perfe 


fdden for 
nd curds. 
tes forty- 
y lofanh 
gh which 
has been 
The deyvi 
oul fresh 

pots and 

re is no 
ich is the 


earth by 
ength for 
d against 

or weigh 
; purifica- 
has been 
Mars), if 
i not only 
n sons of 
places of 

1 with an 
md dogs. 

belly of 
:eive final 
)irits still 
the forces 
by an act 
the Frash 
iptism of 


Death and Rites Jo 

does not take long, and ai 
the Scales, and is weighe 
purest human being. To 

'After it has passed through 
Star, Awathur, where it is w 
Star, but that star is his seat. 
soul; in the other, the soul ol 
human souls. His selflessness : 
it is written that after Adar 
(Alaha^ for Moslems were pr 
terms) wished to call him to P; 
on earth. His request was g 
years, God sent to seek his soi 
a second respite. After a third 
said, "Take Shitil in my place! 
old and have not yet marriec 
for Adam, only asking to say 
the angel of death.' 

If the soul weighs 
back for re-purification, if: 
borne over the river which 
celestial habitations, in whi 
His ultimate dwelling ma 
or of Hibil Ziwa, or of Sii 
spirit of light, for the wo 

I have given the usua^ 
death. One ganzibra, a 
declared Mataratha, wit] 
nothing but a bogey to fi- 
ne said, 'is Mataratha!' . 
to prove that the soul was 
release, to the world of Ms 
ally, strengthened by the 
eaten in his name on earth 
Shedding off its impuriti 
of the cocoon, it rose at la 
double, and then, mountin 
through the three hundn 
to ultimate perfection of 

Rites j -or the Souls oj the Dead 199 

ig, and after a brief sojourn, it returns to 
s weighed against the soul of Shitil, the 
;ing. To quote from a ganzibra : 

through mataratha^ the soul reaches the Polar 
ere it is weighed. (Awathur is not the Polar 
is his seat.) In one scale of the balance is the 
the soul of Shitil, for Shitil is the purest of all 
elflessness is shown in the Ginza Rba, in which 
after Adam had lived a thousand years, God 
ns were -present, and the narrator adapted his 
1 him to Paradise. Adam begged for more time 
uest was granted, but, after another thousand 
seek his soul again. Adam begged and received 
fter a third thousand years had passed by, Adam 
i my place!" Shitil said, "I am only eighty years 
et married!", nevertheless, he prepared to die 
:ing to say his Rahmi. Then he was taken by 

ighs heavier than that of Shitil it is sent 
cation, if not, it enters a ship of light and is 
ver which surrounds the worlds of light to 
?ns, in which kinsmen long dead are settled, 
elling may be in the world of Yushamin, 
i, or of Simat Hiia, or of some other great 
Dr the worlds of light are countless, 
the usual account of what happens after 
nzibra^ always inclined to rationalism, 
atha, with its tortures and wild beasts, 
)gey to frighten evil-doers. 'This world', 
aratha!' He produced the Tafsir Paghra 
: soul was translated, after the third day's 
>rld of Mshunia Kushta and there, gradu- 
:d by the prayers made and sacred meals 
j on earth, passed through a chrysalis state. 

impurities like the silk-moth the layers 
rose at last and became one with its light- 
, mountinginthis transfigured state, passed 
se hundred and sixty gates of that world 
action of the self in the world of light. 

200 Death and Rites j or the Souls of the Dead 


1 . Kusjita. The word means literally 'Right', 'Right-doing', becoming 
'troth', and 'giving the right hand in troth or fealty'. Kusj^ta is personified 
in some passages of the sacred books (e.g. JB. pp. 3-16). 

2. The verb asa in Mandaean cannot be translated 'to heal' with the 
exclusive meaning 'making that which is sick well', for it implies rather 
'imparting vigour and life magically'. Hence, the noun asutha is better 
translated as 'health', 'vigour', than 'healing' or 'salvation'. In the plural, 
asawatha = 'means of health', 'life-bestowing gifts'. 

3. The Parsis wash the corpse with gaomez and well-water. 'In some 
cases, generally those of old men when they were given up as hopeless, the 
final bath was, up to a few years ago, given during the last moments of life? 
(Italics mine). (JJM. p. 54). 

4. Botanical names. The bardi is the Typha Angustata. The gasab is 
of two kinds: Phragmites communis and Prianthus communis. 

5 . 'The soul of this masiqta^ does not necessarily mean that a masiqta 
is to be performed. It means that the soul is helped to rise by the ceremonies 
and prayers performed in its name. The ritual of the masiqta proper is too 
costly for all to pay for its celebration. The phrase is used of the recently 
dead, whose souls are prayed for. 

6. With regard to the Subbi tradition (by no means universal) of ex- 
posure of bodies in ancient times, this practice is not found only amongst 
the Zoroastrians, but is also (Doughty, "Arabia Deserta", vol. ii, p. 41), 
according to their neighbours, practised by the Qahtan tribe in central 
Arabia. Evidence of such a custom among early inhabitants exists in 
Baluchistan, and in the Indus Valley has been found by archaeologists in 
the shape of fractional burials. To quote Dr. Frankfort (Archeology and 
the Sumerian Problem} these were burials, 'in which the bones were only 
in part collected and buried after the body had been exposed to beasts and 
birds . . .' (p. 27). These burials he takes as adding to cumulative evidence 
that 'the earliest settlers in Mesopotamia, then, were people descended 
from the Iranian highlands and possessed of a culture which extended 
eastward to the very borders of the Indus Valley' (p. 30). The Parsis 
expose the bodies of the dead to vultures in the Towers of Silence, but an 
indication of an earlier custom when, presumably after the three days' 
watch, the body was abandoned, is found in the sag-did, or bringing a dog 
to look at the corpse. That this dog, which should be 'four-eyed', i.e. have 
special markings, is not merely symbolical of the four-eyed dogs which 
guard the Chinvat bridge into the other world, is shown in the earlier 
proviso that the sight of birds like the sari-gar, the black crow, and the 
vulture may serve the place of the sag-did, 'but, in that case, the shadow 
of these flying birds must fall over the body'. (The Rivayat Kama 
Bokra.} In modern Tibet the practice is still a common one: bodies are 
cut up by the lamas before exposure to birds and beasts of prey. 

Death and Rites for the Souls of the Dead 201 

7. Cf. the breaking of the seal on the tomb of Jesus on the morning of 
the Resurrection, i.e. the dawn of the third day after death. As the 
Mandaean seal is a pagan seal, it is not likely to have been 'borrowed' from 
the Christians: although the Nestorians also 'seal' graves (with a cross i.e. 
a life-sign) which is removed on the third day. The custom has probably a 
common origin. 

8. Moulton says (The Treasure of the Magi, p. 154): 'An interesting 
detail (of a Parsi funeral) is the drawing of the kasha three times round 
the place where the corpse is laid. A kasha (Avestan karsa, Greek reXaov) 
is a 'furrow', and it is drawn with a piece of metal. It marks off the 
ground and interposes a barrier against the excursions of the fiend into the 
places around.' 

9. Pronounced: Bshtnathaiy ubushma ad Manda-t-haiy madkhar illakhya 
tafta titqabbal tabutli haiy utabutha dhaiy uManda-t-haiy pehla ad al shorn 
haiy ipla tav tav a al tavi u itres kiniana d rahmi usjimi nibbi nisjika unimmar 
unis_htemma. Bin wushkennin wamrennin wishtamennin mn qodamakh. dilakh_ 
marey Manda-t-haiy marey hun adasawatha ashfaqalli hottoyi uhovi ueskilathi 
watqilathi umshabashathi ill men ad hazan lahma umasekhtha utabutha aved 
hottoyi uhovi uiskilathi uatqilathi (tiqlathK) umshabashathi neshfaqulli marey 
Manda-t-haiy haiy rabbi qadmoyi u al marey adaghra uzedqa hazen nishimta 
ad Pulan bar Pulanttha (the deceased) ad haza masekhtha shaveq hottoyi 
nhvili al dili ulab wal "im wal rabbey walzowey ival shitley wal tarmidhi 
irmon dilkhtin abhathi tirubani umalfani umasvirani kath_ ismekhetun min 
ismal lyammen shafeq hottoyi nhuilkhun wa timrun qaiamen haiy bisjikhina- 
thun umsjkabben haiy uhaiy zakken al kulhun iwadi. 

ro. In Iraq bread is universally considered sacred as an emblem of life. 
A fellah, walking along a road and finding a piece of fallen bread, will pick 
it up, brush away the dust, and set it where it will not be trodden upon, 
mentioning the name of God. In Palestine, until the Great War, it was 
considered wrong to sell bread amongst the felldhin bread should be 
given, not sold. 

11. ''Malil uptha hiia rbia bpumaihun bzizoa ifqara d_ nafshaihun 
umshabin hiia' 

12. Compare Modi's account of the Parsi funeral: 'Only the corpse 
bearers are allowed to come into contact with the body. If somebody else 
touches the body he has to go through a process of purification or a sacred 
bath taken under the direction of a priest' (JJM., p. 5 5). 

The parallels throughout are striking. To summarize: After the washing 
of the dead, or dying, described in note 3, the body is given over to the 
charge of two persons who first take a bath, put on 'a clean suit of clothes', 
perform the Kusti (i.e. re-girdle themselves) and recite part of the Srosh-baj 
prayer. Then, holding a paiwand or white cloth, between them, they enter 
the death chamber. The body is placed on the ground in a clean white sheet, 
and the shroud is placed over it. The face is left uncovered, but sometimes 
the lower part of the face is covered with the padan. The corpse is lifted 

4363 D d 

202 Death and Rites j or the Souls of the Dead 

and put on slabs of stone in the 'front room' but, says Modi, in earlier 
times was placed on a plot of ground within the area of the house, dug over 
to the depth of a few inches and covered with a layer of sand. This custom 
is still observed 'in some of the towns of Gu jerat'. Great care is taken to 
avoid the corpse facing north. 

'After placing the corpse on slabs of stones, one of the persons draws 
round the body three Kashas' '. (See note 8.) 'They then leave the house, 
with the paiwand still held between them, and finish the Srosh Baj 

The funeral ceremonies over the body before its removal include the 
sag-did (note 6). A priest wearing a padan recites prayers by the sacred 
fire brought into the room in which the corpse is laid after the first sag-did 
(for the dog is brought to 'look' at the body more than once). 

The removal of the body at night is forbidden. 

'About an hour before the time fixed for the removal of the body to the 
Tower, two or four if the body is heavier Nassasalars, i.e. corpse- 
bearers, clothed in perfect white, enter the house, after having said and 
performed the Padyab Kusti' (minor ablution). 'All parts of the body 
except the face are covered up. . . . They enter the house holding a paizuand 
between them' (JJM., pp. 62-3). 

Sometimes the offices of the first two persons and those of the corpse- 
bearers are performed by 'the same persons. Before the recitation of the 
Gatha (which must take place before the dead body leaves the house) 'two 
priests perform the Padyab Kusti, and, after reciting the prayers for the 
particular Gah, go to the chamber where the dead body is placed, and 
standing at the door or inside the door at some distance from the body, and 
holding a paiwand between them, put on the pa dan over their faces, take 
the baj and recite the Ahunavaiti Gatha (Yagna xxviii-xxxiv) which treats 
of Ahura Mazda, his Ameshaspentas or immortal archangels, the future 
life, resurrection and such other subjects' (JJM., p. 65). '. . . When the 
recital of the Gatha is finished, the final sag-did \s performed. . . . When all 
have had their last look and paid their respects the corpse-bearers cover up 
with a piece of cloth the face of the deceased which was till now open 
and secure the body to the bier with a few straps of cloth so that it may not 
fall on being lifted up and carried' (JJM., p. 66). 

Only male relatives follow the bier to the Tower of Silence, and after 
the conclusion of the ceremonies and the leaving of the body to the vultures, 
'all return home and generally take a bath before following their ordinary 
vocations'. (JJM., p. 69). 

1 3 . The time set for the soul to quit the body and tomb is that taken in 
a mild climate for the body to show signs of putrefaction. Jesus is repre- 
sented as leaving the sepulchre on the dawn of the third day. 

'According to Parsi Scriptures', says Modi (p. 76), 'the soul of a dead 
person remains within the precincts of this world for three days under the 
special protection of Sraosha' (p. 77). 'On the dawn after the third night, 
it goes to the other world.' 

Death and Rites Jor the Souls of the Dead 203 

14. Shahabriil'is variously described in the Ginza Rba as Mana, Gufna 
(Mandaeans translate this word 'tree' not Vine'), and 'uthra Ziwa. 

15. Cf. the two death angels of the Moslems, Munkir and Naklr, and 
the Hebrew Gabriel and Azrael. Gabriel and Gauriil Ishliha correspond 
exactly to the Zoroastrian Sraosha. 

1 6. This recalls the ascension of Jesus on the fortieth day. Forty is 
used generally as the Semitic equivalent of 'many', and would not, there- 
fore, be significant were it not for the parallel of the resurrection on the 
Third Day, and the removal of the seal. It must be remembered that the 
ritual mass for the soul is the masiqta the 'raising'. 

Moslems have a special ceremony with prayers on the fortieth day after 
death, called 'the Forty', and on that day food is distributed to the poor. 
The Mandaeans eat lofani on the forty-fifth day, while the Parsis have the 
Sraosh ceremony on the thirtieth day after death. Baghdad Jews eat a 
vegetarian ritual meal for the dead on the thirtieth day after death. 

17. Parsis. Of the weighing of the dead man's deeds in Meher's 
scales Modi writes: 'If his good deeds overweigh even by a small particle 
his misdeeds, his soul is allowed to pass the bridge (Chinvat) to Paradise. If 
his good deeds are equal to his misdeeds the soul goes to a place called 
Hameshta-gehan. (Vend. xix. 36). If his misdeeds outweigh his good 
deeds, even by a particle, he is cast down into hell.' (JJM., pp. 834.) 
(The Hameshta-gehan is the Parsi Purgatory, or place of purification.) 


IN the last chapter, and those which preceded it, I have 
described various ritual meals, such as that eaten at 
the consecration of the mandi^ or of the priest, or of the 
ganzibra, at marriage, and at death. I have also indicated 
the nature and purpose of these ritual meals, the actions 
which accompany them, and the foods eaten at them. In 
this chapter they must be considered in groups, and 
especially in the intensified form in which they are per- 
formed, or eaten, at Panja, or Paranoia (Parwanaia). 

The meal has degrees of sanctity and efficacy. The 
simplest form of all is the private, family, or household 
lo/ani, referred to in the last chapter as distinct from the 
more ceremonious general lofanis performed on the first, 
third, seventh, and forty-fifth days after death. Two or 
three or more of the deceased person's family gather 
together in the courtyard the meal is eaten in the open 
air and, after they have performed the rishama, sit 
around a dish, tray, or clean white cloth, upon which the 
foods are placed. The five sacred foods of the zidqa brikha 
should be present, and bread, vegetables, and fruit. Fish, 
mutton fat, or birds' flesh (not chicken) are desirable, but 
not essential; salt is necessary. All lofani food must be 
absolutely fresh, greenstuff and fruit picked within the 
hour if possible, and water fetched straight from the river. 
All dishes, utensils, accessories, and foods used (except 
salt) must receive triple ablution with the baptismal formula 
in the river. The ritual is a simple form of the general 
lofani: the master of the house, or his representative, 
presides, bread is broken between pair and pair, and the 
right hand grasping a morsel of bread wrapped about 
fragments of food is stretched forth over the central dish, 
while the master says, 'In the name of the Great Life, 
laufa (communion) and rwaha (revivification) of life and 
a forgiver of sins may there be for N. son (or daughter) 
of N.'. The handful is eaten, water is drunk with the 


a. Lofani in a private house 

b. Panja, Sacrifice of sheep for lofani 
(note rnisra and bed of reeds) 

Eating for the Dead 205 

lofani responses (p. 189), and the meal completed, what is 
left over being cast into the river. 

I described two forms of general lofani in the last 

The zidqa brikha comes next in sanctity. This ritual 
meal has variants which differ considerably. The zidqa 
brikhas for a marriage and a burial have already been des- 
cribed in Chapters V and XI. The ( latter may be cele- 
brated, if no priest is available, by a hallali, but the former 
can only be performed by a ganzibra and priests. In my 
chapter on the consecration of the mandi^ and in that in 
which I recounted how a ganzibra is consecrated, I men- 
tioned that I was reserving my description of the zidqa 
brikha which is performed at these two ceremonies. It is 
the most elaborate of all zidqa brikhas, and is united with 
the solemn drinking ofhamra, and with a myrtle ceremony 
which is suggestive of the symbolism of eternal life attached 
to that fragrant and evergreen shrub by the Mandaeans. 
It will be remembered that in the one the ganzibra was for 
part of the time impersonating a dead risk *ama, and in 
the other, the ganzibra-to-be was impersonating the man 
whose death enables him to be raised to the ganzivrate. 

The arrangement of the sacred foods on the toriani 
differs slightly from that of the zidqa brikha for burial. Fat 
from the base of the sacrificed sheep's tail has previously 
been brought to the boil on the fire of lustrated wood 
before the mandi. A little white rice (i.e. not the unhusked 
red shilib} is cooked in this, and a keptha full of this greasy 
rice is placed next to the salt in the inner toriana (see 
diagram, p. 192). The arrangement of fatiri (five) and 
sat (two) is the same as at the zidqa brikha for the day of 
burial. There is one important addition, however, namely, 
that of a qanina full of hamra. 

When the priests begin there are three, including the 
celebrant assisted by a shganda they take the sat in their 
right hands, the celebrant and a priest holding one and the 
other three the second. The usual formula 'In the Name 
of the Great Life, Laufa and rwaha of Life,' &c., is 
pronounced before the solemn breaking in two (prat/ia) 

206 'Rating Jor the Dead 

of the sal. In the case of the consecration of the mandl the 
name of the dead risfi *ama is mentioned ('N. son of N. of 
this maslqta and dukhrana\ in the case of the newganzibra 
the name of the dead bearer of the 'nglrtha ('N. son of N. 
of this maslqta}. The priests then eat thrice of everything 
on the toriana and drink from the common bowl (niara\ 
or from a keptha, with the formulae I have quoted several 
times. All then wrap a morsel of bread about small frag- 
ments of food, and, grasping this in their right hands, 
stretch them over the torlanl and recite the Abahathan 
prayer, given in full later in this chapter. 

The impersonator of the dead risji *ama (or dead bearer 
of the 'nglrtha} does not speak during this first part of the 
zidqa brikha; he sits with the others, but repeats the 
formulae and the Abahathan in his heart. 

The drinking of the hamra follows the Abahathan, and 
this drinking of fresh fruit juice and water is combined 
throughout with myrtle ritual and the formal 'smelling of 
the perfume of the myrtle', thereby intensifying, as I have 
said, the implied symbolism of evergreen immortality, 
and of the resurrection forces of spring, germination, and 
growth. I shall quote some of the myrtle prayers, at the 
risk of lengthening this chapter unduly, because they prove 
this point. 

The shganda takes the qanlna full of hamra and a bunch 
of freshly plucked myrtle sprigs, and, reciting the prayer, 
'Bshuma d hlla rbla mn yuma d pras]i ayar mn alnla mla 
lhakha\ &c., he gives both to the celebrant, who, on 
receiving them, breaks his silence and recites: 'Atha atha 
shganda rama atha mn bit abj &c. He divides the myrtle, 
and distributes it amongst his three assistants. As each 
man receives the myrtle, he pushes it, plume-wise, into 
a fold of his turban. The celebrant says over each man in 
turn, as he hands him the myrtle : 

'Bshuma dhiia rbia byuma dshirsha dasa hadtha qudam malka tris 
malka yaminh pshat ( lhul "uthrla ushgandia f hablun wamarlun nsub 
mmai asa hadtha ubrikhta bshkhinatha brukh ubirkhth bshkhinatha 
wanhar utaqm *uthria ushkh_matjui dlyaminakjh nhmalakh yatbia mn 
risk Irish,'' 


a, Lofani : the breaking of bread 

b. Slaughter of sheep for iddqa bnkha 

2o6 "Rating for the Dead 

of the sat. In the case of the consecration of the mandi the 
name of the dead risjh * ama is mentioned ('N. son of N. of 
this masiqta and dukhrana y \ in the case of the new ganzibra 
the name of the dead bearer of the 'ngirtha ('N. son of N. 
of this masiqta'). The priests then eat thrice of everything 
on the toriana and drink from the common bowl (niara\ 
or from a keptha^ with the formulae I have quoted several 
times. All then wrap a morsel of bread about small frag- 
ments of food, and, grasping this in their right hands, 
stretch them over the toriani and recite the Abahathan 
prayer, given in full later in this chapter. 

The impersonator of the dead risk ' ' ama (or dead bearer 
of the 'ngirtha) does not speak during this first part of the 
zidqa brikha\ he sits with the others, but repeats the 
formulae and the Abahathan in his heart. 

The drinking of the hamra follows the Abahathan, and 
this drinking of fresh fruit juice and water is combined 
throughout with myrtle ritual and the formal 'smelling of 
the perfume of the myrtle', thereby intensifying, as I have 
said, the implied symbolism of evergreen immortality, 
and of the resurrection forces of spring, germination, and 
growth. I shall quote some of the myrtle prayers, at the 
risk of lengthening this chapter unduly, because they prove 
this point. 

The shganda takes the qanina full of hamra and a bunch 
of freshly plucked myrtle sprigs, and, reciting the prayer, 
''B shit ma d hit a rbia mn yuma d pras_h ayar mn ainia mi a 
lhakha\ &c., he gives both to the celebrant, who, on 
receiving them, breaks his silence and recites: l Alha atha 
shganda rama atha mn lit ab> &c. He divides the myrtle, 
and distributes it amongst his three assistants. As each 
man receives the myrtle, he pushes it, plume-wise, into 
a fold of his turban. The celebrant says over each man in 
turn, as he hands him the myrtle: 

1 Bshuma d_hna rbla byuma dshirsha dasa hadthci qiidarn malka tris 
malka yammh_ pshftt ' Ihul " uthj'ia ush^gandia ' hablun zuamarlun nsub 
rninai cisa hddtjut ubrikhta bshkhinathfi brukh_ nhirkhth bshkhlnfitha 
wanhnr utaqin ' uth'ia Jtsjhklunfithfi d lyambiakh uhmalakh_yatbui mn 
fish 1/rish.' 


?. I.tjfiini : the breaking ot bread 

. Slaughter of sheep for zidf/ii brikha 

ILattng Jor the Dead 207 

'In the name of the Great Life! On the day that the fresh plant 
of myrtle was set up before the King, the King stretched forth his 
hand to it and gave it to the "uthris and shgandas and said to them, 
"Take from me fresh myrtle, and give benison in the dwellings. A 
benison bestow on the dwellings.'* And it illumined and irradiated 
the ( uthris and the dwellings which are situate to thy right and thy 
left for ever.' 

'Bshuma d hiia rbia byuma dasgta Hibil alwath Tawar asa 
alwathaihun asgta Iwathaihun itlTawar byaminh "hablh wamarlh 
nsub minai asa hadtha ubirkhta bshkhinatha brukh birkhta brukh 
bshkhmatha uhaizakh Tawar pihtha Ipumh ulHibil Ziwa mbarikhlh 
mbarikhlh IHibil Ziwa wamarlh brikhit anat abun Hibil Ziwa akwath 
asa d byaminakh uninfush sharshakh akwath shirshia d asa hadtha 
unihuilakh_ hala usaghia akwath mia hiia.' 

'In the name of the Great Life ! On the day that Hibil approached 
Yawar, he brought towards them myrtle, myrtle he brought to 
them, and gave it to Yawar with his right hand and said: "Take 
from me fresh myrtle, and bless the dwellings with a blessing! A 
benison bestow in the dwellings!" Then Yawar opened his mouth 
and blessed Hibil Ziwa and said to him : "Blessed art thou, our father, 
Hibil Ziwa, like the myrtle which is in thy right hand, and thy 
root (race) shall flourish like the fresh myrtle plant, and shall bring 
thee strength and increase like the living water".' 

In distributing the twigs with these two prayers, he 
begins with the sjrganda^ then gives to the priest on the 
right, and next to the tarmida on the left. He then takes 
a keptha> pours a little hamra into it and gives it to the 
priests and shganda (in the text they are called the 
brukhaiia). Each recipient drinks thrice from the little 
bowl, while the celebrant pronounces over each: 

Bshuma d hila rbia nhar gufnia bgu mia u *tqaiam kab'trta Ikalh 
Itaqnia mia uqalma dmawathkhun uminihra "Ian dna dna ziwaikhun 
"uthria saghiia watha bhilfa kasia dna -ziwaikhun uzhva d malka 
athia rihaikhun umaziz (mazztz) "Ian, 

This prayer is not so easy to translate but, no doubt, 
some reader will correct me : 

'In the name of the Great Life! Vines (priests translate 'trees') 
glistened in the waters and grew to their full height to the adorn- 
ment of the waters (?). And let your counterparts arise and enlighten 

208 Eating for the Dead 

us, let your radiancy rise, rise upon us, multitudinous *uthris y and 
come in mystic guise. Let your light rise upon us and the radiancy 
of the king. Let your perfumes come to us and give us strength.' 

No matter how this prayer be translated, the general 
meaning stands clear : it is a piece of imitative white magic : 
the communicants are endued with the power and strength 
that the powers of light and life give to growing things. 

After all have drunk of the hamra they rise, but the 
celebrant resumes his role of the dead and crouches before 
them, while a priest reads nine prayers over his head. 

1. 'Bshuma d hiia mishqal ainia kadfia', &c. (Q. 65). 

2. 'Mishqal ainia arumia', &c. (Q. 1 5). 

3. "sir yama u'sirin trin kifh d yama', &c. (Q. 22). 

4. 'Gimra ana Gimira', &c. (Q. 23). 

5. 'Zha u'tazha kulhun ruhia bishatha', &c. (Q. 24). 

6. 'Bshuma d hiia kth 'hablia yardna d mia hiia ISam Ziwa 
Rba', &c. (Q. 40). 

7. 'Bshuma d hiia 'siria hthimia', &c. (Q. 43). 

8. 'Bshuma d hiia b'usar hiia trisinin', &c. (Q. 43). 

9. ' 'sirna hthimna halin nishimta d Plan' (the name of the living 
ganzibra not the dead he represents), &c. (Q. 44). 

The celebrant then rises and he, or one of the priests, 
takes the book of prayers in his hand, and reads twenty- 
four prayers, wordy and vague, some of them being pages 
long. I do not propose to give them here. 

When they are concluded, each takes the myrtle in his 
right hand and they all repeat after the celebrant: 

'Asa asa malka nisbh umalka briha d asa mitkarakh 

Malka mitkarakh briha d asa 

UlHibil Ziwa mbarikhlh 

Mbarikhlh IHibil Ziwa wamarlh 

Brikhit anat abun Hibil Ziwa d aithith lhazin shirshia d asa hadthia 

Utrasth bshkhinatha d "uthria 

Ushkhinatha bziwa nahria briha basimia 

Mn risk brishS 

'Myrtle, myrtle! A malka (king, spirit) takes it and a malka is 
incorporated (lit. bound up, wrapped up) in it. A king is lapped in 
the perfume of the myrtle and he blessed Hibil Ziwa, he blessed 
Hibil Ziwa and said to him, "Thou art blessed, our father Hibil 


a. Zidqa brikha. Preparations 

b. Kneading dough for \hzfatiri 
(zidqa Mkha) 

Eating j or the Dead 209 

Ziwa who has brought these roots of fresh myrtle and set them up 
in the dwellings of the *uthria and the dwellings in radiant light 
inhale its lovely perfume, for ever and ever".' 

The celebrant then collects the myrtle from the priests 
and the twigs that he placed on the toriani and pronounces 
the following prayer : 

l Bshuma d hiia rbia kul man d brihakh nahra ubgauakh mitkarakh 
shitin hataiia kadiria minh nathria ukulhin ananla dakiatha d 
mishtalmibakh mn *ubadia sainia mttparqan ukltlia gadlan ubrishaian 
tarsan adinqia muma salqta hazilh lathar nhur.' 

'In the name of the Great Life, all who smell thy perfume and 
become enveloped in thee, sixty major sins shall flow away from 
him, and all the pure spouses who are made perfect in thee shall be 
freed from evil deeds, and twist garlands and set them on their 
heads and, without blemish, shall rise and behold the place of Light.' 

During this prayer all the officiants smell at the myrtle. 
The Subbi priests told me later that 'sixty sins leave them 
by the power of the perfume'. 1 

The ganzibra then throws the myrtle, together with all 
the tabutha (sacred food) that remains, into the yardna. 
The dravsha is deconsecrated by two prayers, rolled up, 
and put away. 

There are other zidqa brikhas, such as the solemn 
'pious act' performed for a person who has commissioned 
a priest to write one of the holy books for him. This 
person is considered throughout as impersonating himself 
after death, i.e. he is taking his zidqa brikha as it were, in 
advance. 2 The ritual for this zidqa brikha is a mixture of 
the zldqa brikha just described (for hamra is drunk at it, 
and myrtle is distributed), and the ceremony of the hava 
d mani (ahaba d mania) described later on, for the 
person in whose name it is read wears a new rasta, and, if a 
layman, receives the holy food and drink with veiled 
hands. Each time that a special name is inserted, the 
name of the person for whom the holy book has been 
written, together with the names of his family and an- 
cestors, are mentioned. 

The five fatiri and the sa, the salt, and a range of 

4363 E e 

210 Eating j or the Dead 

vegetable foods are the principal features of the zidqa 
brikha ; the prayers and other ritual differ according to the 
occasion of the sacred meal. 3 

Highest in sanctity comes the masiqta^ or 'raising-up', 
described in the chapters on the consecration of the mandl^ 
the priest, and the ganzibrat In these there are variations 
in the manner of performance, the prayers recited, and in 
details of ritual, but the main features are the slaughter of 
the dove, the making and consecration of sixty-sixfafiri 
without salt , the placing of the dove's flesh with the five 
other tabutha upon ihefatiri, their signing with the wisha, 
the mingling of grapes or raisins for the hamra, and the 
drinking of the same, and the final burying of the dove 
and the sixty-six fa fin. It will be noticed that only the five 
kinds of sacred food are used (beside the salt-less bread), 
and that the drinking of the hamra does not replace the 
ordinary sacraments of bread made with salt and of pure 
water, which are also eaten and drunk. The masiqta is 
performed, like the zidqa brikha, for the dead, but also, 
in an anticipatory fashion, for the living. The number 
of officiants (as in the case of the zidqa brikha \ see 
pp. 1956) differs. To enumerate: 

1. The Masiqta of the Shwalia (initiate into priesthood). One 
set of toriani is required, and the new priest 'signs' all the 
sixty-six fatiri in the name of his initiator. This masiqta is 
called the Masiqta d Bukhra (of the First-Born). 

2. The Masiqta of the MandL Requires three officiants and three 
sets. The ganzibra entering the mandi with the shganda first 
consecrates twenty-four of the fatiri in two relays; then, when 
the priests join him, the three officiants each consecrate 
fourteen fatiri in relays of twelve and two. It is followed 
by a zidqa brikha with hamra and myrtle. 

3. The Masiqta of the new Ganzibra. The ganzt 'bra-elect 
performs the entire ceremony and consecration of the sixty- 
six fatiri (like the shwa/ia), but a zidqa brikha similar to that 
of 2. follows. (Also called 'of the 'ngirtha'}. 

4. The Masiqta of Shitil (also called l d Bukhra''}. Three priests 
officiate, one of whom is a ganzibra^ and the proceeding is 
the same as 2. This is performed for one who dies without 
a klila. 

Eating for the Dead 211 

5. The Masiqta of Zahrun Raza Kasia, This is performed like 
4. with minor differences. It is celebrated for one who dies 
on one of the minor mbattal days (see p. 88). 

6. The Masiqta ofddam. Performed by seven priests, with seven 
sets, each signing and consecrating sixty-six fatiri with ritual 
of i. This masiqta is performed for one who dies on one of 
the major mbattal days, i.e. during the five days before Panja, 
the day after Dehwa Daimana, the sixth and the seventh days 
of the New Year, and any Moslem feast-day. Also for a 
murdered man, one who dies without rites, or from the bite 
of a dog, wild animal or snake, or sting of a scorpion, or by 
any other accident except those named in 7. 

7. The Masiqta of Samandiriil. 3 Performed by eight priests of 
whom one at least must be a ganzibra. This is for one who 
falls from a palm tree, is burnt by fire, or drowned in a river. 
Eight sets, each with sixty-six fatiri consecrated like i. 

If a man dies in one place and is buried in another, two 
masiqta?, are read for him, one of Adam and another of 
Shitil. If a woman dies in childbirth on the first day of her 
impurity, the masiqta of Adam is read for her ; on or after 
the third day, the masiqta of Zahrun Raza Kasia, if on or 
after the seventh day, the masiqta of Shitil. If she dies after 
the thirtieth day, in her rasta, but too ill to have been 
baptized, the zidqa brikha d gmasjn (otherwise hava d 
mani (ahaba d mania) which will be described later in the 
chapter) is performed for her when Panja comes, also the 
masiqta of Adam. 

If a bride or bridegroom dies during the wedding cere- 
mony or the week which follows it, no masiqta at all can be 
read for him or her, and no klila can be placed on his or her 
head. No ginzi (holy books) can be carried in the funeral 
procession, although hallalis act as bearers and /of ant is read 
at the grave. The usual zidqa brikha cannot be performed 
on the day of burial, then, or at any subsequent time. 

If one of the bridal pair dies after the first seven days, 
having been prevented by illness from being baptized, a 
zidqa brikha mal gmdsjn (hava d mani) is read for him 
or her during Panja> and two masiqtas are read, that of 
Adam and that of Samandriil. If there are not enough 
priests for Samandriil, they substitute that of Shitil. 

212 Eating J or the Dead 

The masiqta of Samandriil costs 1 60 rupees (i.e. about 
12 or twelve dinars), whereas the masiqta of Shitil is only 
about 50 rupees (3 15^.). I asked what would happen if 
the family was too poor to pay these heavy fees. The priest 
replied that nothing could be done. Their work could 
only be performed for fees, 'for we must live'. 

The difference between one masiqta and another lies in 
the prayers recited, not in the actual procedure. The 
bundle containing the tabutha and sacrificed dove must 
be buried in a fresh place within the mandi enclosure every 
year, but never on the east side of the mandi. 

During Panja (Parwanaia) the duty of eating for the 
dead, not only for recently dead persons, but for all 
ancestors, whether spirit-ancestors or actual ancestors, 
becomes a sacred duty, for these five days are a suspension 
of the division between the world of light and this world, 
and 'those who have left their bodies' and those who are 
still in their bodies enjoy fellowship and unity transcending 
that of other days of the year. 6 

Not only are the former invoked, but they are thought 
to be actually present. The Mandaean ritual meal is 
linked with the mention of the dead by name, not only the 
recently dead, but relations, ancestors, rabbis, priests 
(many of the names convey nothing to their present 
descendants), back to such remote ancestors as Adam, 
Shitil, and 'Anush, and, still more removed, to the spirits 
of light and life who were the first progenitors of mankind. 
The word for this mentioning of names (the 'Abahathan*') 
is the dukhrana, the Remembrance or Mentioning. 7 The 
meaning of this root dkr or in Arabic dhkr is best illus- 
trated by an expression commonly used by the ignorant 
people of Iraq about Khidhr Elias (the Prophet Elijah), 
who is called the Shaikh of the River. 'If you mention him, 
he is present.' 

The person, soul, or being whose name is uttered in 
dukhrana becomes present, not only in the mind of the 
utterer, but actually, though invisibly. Hence dukhrana 
becomes an invocation, a summoning, a claiming of 
attention; the clan, whether in this world or immaterial 

Eating for the Dead 213 

worlds, is reminded of its unity; and the spirits of ancestors 
in the worlds of light are made aware of their descendants, 
especially of the recently dead, of those who are still being 
perfected in Mataratha, and of those in the prison of the 
body upon earth. A Mandaean priest explained the 
dukhrana thus, 'It is like the ringing of the bell of a tele- 
phone'. The simile was apt: not only is communication 
established, but the attention of distant or divine ancestors 
summoned and compelled. The Tafsir Paghra pictures 
dukhrania taking place not only in this material world, but 
in the immaterial worlds, 'like messages from world to 

In the minds of the majority of the Subba the eating 
and drinking of the ritual meal has a very real replica in 
the spiritual world. I have heard them murmur, at the 
end of a lo/ani, during Panja^ when the names of various 
dead relatives have been pronounced by the officiant, 'and 
now they have eaten, all of them ! ' I have already explained 
how the souls passing through the Mataratha are given 
etherealized banquets and fortified on their journey. 

The ritual meal then, especially with dukhrana or 
mention of names, is, in a most literal sense, conceived of 
as a 'holy communion', a ritual appeal to the clan spirit 
and a denial that any member of that clan can cease from 

Every ritual meal in Panja is linked with dukhrana^ and 
in lofanh, and masiqtas and zidqa brikhas, the words 'the 
soul of N. son of N. of this masiqta' become 'the soul of N. 
son of N. of this masiqta and dukhrana '. In every house 
lofani is eaten, and relatives gather together and remind 
the officiant of names which they wish included in the list 
of family names which he reads out. Sheep are sacrificed 
for these ritual meals, and even the poorest, who cannot 
afford sheep, will hold their hands over the common dish 
of fruit and vegetables and eat in the name of the dead of 
their family. 

Those specially remembered, however, are those un- 
fortunate dead who are wandering, outcasts from the 
world of light, because they have been deprived by fate or 

214 Eating J or the Dead 

accident of their proper death ceremonies, 
include all persons who have died in a state of i 
such as women in childbirth, or have beer 
accident without time to say their rahmi and m 
tions for death. They include those who hav 
clothes, or those doubly cursed persons wh 
through forces of Nature generally friendly 
such as those drowned in the river, fallen frorr 
(the date-palm, sindarka^ is holy on account c 
man), or burnt with fire. 

At Panja (see pp. 90 et seq.), and onl 
when the whole body of the church, aliv< 
glorified and unglorified, is aware of the lea 
unfortunate of its members, when the fora 
and resurrection are potent, and the purific 
are in flood, redeeming rites can be performe< 
unhappy souls. These rites, called the h 
(ahaba d mama), are performed upon a pr 
status, sex, personality, and age closely re 
dead person. Some priests hold that the M 
astrological aspects, and hence the 'number' 
(see p. 82) must be the same, but the more u 
near resemblance in condition. For instan> 
woman dead in childbirth must be represente( 
woman who has just had a baby, zganzibra fr 
a priest by a priest, a dead child by a child of 1 
and sex, a woman of priestly family by a worm 
family. The resemblance must be as close as 
a dead priest who has died in impure conditic 
a family of suwadi, or laymen (a rarity), his 
be the same. If the dead is the child of a wor 
been widowed and remarried, the proxy must 
Careful search is made for the person who 
fulfils the conditions laid down. In describ 
which I have seen several times, I shall refer t< 
as 'the proxy' although throughout the rit 
cussion of the rites, priests call him or h( 

The ratna (bastard colloquial Mandaean) t 


emonies. These dead 
i a state of uncleanness, 
have been cut off by 
ihmi and make prepara- 
.e who have died in lay 
ersons who have died 
y friendly and sacred, 
fallen from a palm-tree 
i account of its gifts to 

), and only at Panja, 
urch, alive and dead, 

of the least and most 
ti the forces of spring 
the purificatory waters 
: performed upon these 
led the hava d mani 
ipon a proxy, who in 

closely resembles the 
hat the Malwasha, i.e. 

'number' of the name 
he more usual rule is a 
?or instance, a young 
represented by a young 
%anzibra by a ganzibra, 
a child of the same age 

by a woman of priestly 
as close as possible. If 
ire conditions comes of 
-arity), his proxy must 
Id of a woman who has 
roxy must be the same, 
rson who most closely 
In describing the rite, 
hall refer to this person 
>ut the rites, and dis- 
him or her 'the dead 

'andaean) term for the 

cut off by 
ce prepara- 
died in lay 

have died 
nd sacred, 
a. palm-tree 

its gifts to 

at Panja, 

and dead, 
: and most 

of spring 
ory waters 
upon these 
)a d mani 
[y, who in 

mbles the 
washa, i.e. 
f the name 
lal rule is a 
5, a young 
by a young 
a ganzibra^ 
.e same age 
L of priestly 
lossible. If 
is comes of 
>roxy must 
in who has 
e the same, 
.ost closely 
g the rite, 
this person 
i, and dis- 

'the dead 

m for the 

JLating ^ 

ceremony is the zidqa briL 
of the 'clothes', i.e. rasta. 
formed by two priests, a ^ 
times only one priest, a gc 
The sacred foods, tori 
incense apparatus, and so \ 
in an ordinary zidqa brikh& 
toriattas were set in three litt 

mud surrounded by a ridg 
The sacred foods were set 
out ready, either in the mt 
through its yearly purificai 
specially lustrated place sur 
enclosing a sacred area and 
what is outside it. The pr 
first perform their rishama 
always spoken of as 'built' 
crating themselves, their u. 
objects. One tarmida bap 
the shganda. The ganzil 
priests and the shganda (t 
Then the proxy, wearing h 
ganzibra and a priest, or b; 
mix, knead, and bake the 
the sa, and set these on th 
as in the zidqa brikha of 
The shganda takes the prox 
permission of the yardna 1 . 
must not utter a sound th 
unless the dead person 1 
Therefore he repeats 'it 
formula after the shganda : 

(Pronunciation) 'Bishmeyhu 
uhaili yardna ilawi ushri ttht a 
dakhta urushma e/vesh *ustli zl 
haty ushmat Manda-t-haiy mac 

Then, without speaking 
water, and repeats voicelef 
of the dead person) am 

Eating for the Dead 215 

',idqa brikha mal gmasju^ 'the zidqa brikha 

.e. rasta. Hava d mani should be per- 

riests, a ganzibra and a sJiganda. Some- 

riest, a ganzibra and a shganda officiate. 

ods, toriani, dravshi (or one dravsha\ 

, and so forth are the same as those used 

Iqa brikha. In one that I witnessed three 

i three little circles of beaten andlustrated 

by a ridge of mud about 2 inches high. 

were set out on each toriana. All is put 

in the mandi enclosure, which has gone 

T purification and reconsecration, or in a 

place surrounded by a misra, i.e. a furrow 

area and cutting it off from contact with 

The priests and shganda and ganzibra 

r rishama and 'build' a rahmi (a rahmi is 

as 'built' not 'read' or 'recited'), conse- 

s, their rasta, and their insignia and cult- 

nida baptizes the ganzibra and another 

ic ganzibra, in his turn, baptizes the 

Uganda (the latter for the second time). 

wearing his own rasta, is baptized by the 

iest, or by two priests. The priests next 

bake the five sacred breads (Jatiri) and 

tese on the toriana with the other foods, 

rikha of the day of burial (see p. 193). 

s the proxy down to theyardna and 'takes 

; yardna . The proxy from this minute 

sound throughout the whole ceremony 

person he is representing is a priest. 

;peats 'in his heart' the 'permission' 

shganda : 

l Bishmeyhun ad hazy rabbi ana athban bhaila 
ushri ithi anheth lyardna astowa (*staba] qabbal 
sh *ustli zlwa u atres ibrishi kllla rowzi ushmat 
-t-haiy madkhar ////.' 

: speaking, the proxy descends into the 
s voicelessly ,'I, N. son of N. (the name 
>on) am baptized with the baptism of 

2 1 6 Eating for the Dead 

Bahram the Great, son of the mighty [ones]. My baptism 
shall protect me and cause me to ascend to the summit.' 
He submerges thrice, and on emerging puts on a com- 
pletely new rasta. As in the case of a dead person, a piece 
of gold (atkro) and a piece of silver (kesva] must be sewn 
to the right and left side respectively of the stole. The 
proxy then comes and sits before the toriana facing the 
North Star (House of Abathur), while the ganzibra^ who 
wears a klila (myrtle wreath) on the little finger of his right 
hand, goes, together with the priests and shganda, to 
perform another rishama at the yardna. 

They return and stand in a row facing the north, the 
ganzibra to the extreme right and the shganda at the 
extreme left, and repeat the 'Sharwali 'tres', &c., touching 
each part of the rasta. 

They then repeat: 

'My Lord be praised ! The Right heal ye ! In the name of the 
Great Primal Strange Life, from sublime worlds of light, who is 
above all works; health and purity (or victory), strength and sound- 
ness, speaking and hearing, joy of heart and a forgiver of sins may 
there be for my soul, mine, N. of N. (the name of the reciter), who 
have prayed this prayer and rahmia^ and a forgiver of sins may there 
be for N. son of N. (the name of the dead person) of this masiqta 
(ascension) and dukhrana (mention, remembrance), and a forgiver 
of sins may there be for our fathers, and teachers, and brothers and 
sisters, both those who have left the body and those still in the body, 
and a forgiver of sins may there be for me.' 

All the officiants recite the prayers together, and all 
repeat the four prayers for the consecration of the tagha 
(known to the priests as the 'butha ad qashasJi^ the { qirioy\ 
the 'anhaur anhura\ and the 'Manda aqran'}. When the 
ganzibra is reciting the last (the Manda qrari) he does so 
in the name of the dead man, while the priests stand round 
the crouching figure of the proxy. At the close of the 
prayer, the ganzibra puts the myrtle wreath on the proxy's 
head. The myrtle wreath is worn only by the proxy at 
hava d mani ceremonies ; the priests and ganzibra wear 
none throughout. 

Next, the shganda puts his right hand into the right 


The /^z (the long object lying on the toriana) 

/^. The ''ahaba d_ mania*. Z,idqa brikha. 
The man in a new rasta personates the dead 

2 1 6 Eating for the Dead 

Bahram the Great, son of the mighty [ones]. My baptism 
shall protect me and cause me to ascend to the summit.' 
He submerges thrice, and on emerging puts on a com- 
pletely new rasta. As in the case of a dead person, a piece 
of gold (cithro) and a piece of silver (kesva) must be sewn 
to the right and left side respectively of the stole. The 
proxy then comes and sits before the toriana facing the 
North Star (House of Abathur), while the ganzibra, who 
wears a klila (myrtle wreath) on the little finger of his right 
hand, goes, together with the priests and shganda^ to 
perform another rishama at the yardna. 

They return and stand in a row facing the north, the 
ganzibra to the extreme right and the shganda at the 
extreme left, and repeat the 'Sharwali r tres', &c., touching 
each part of the rasta. 

They then repeat: 

'My Lord be praised! The Right heal ye! In the name of the 
Great Primal Strange Life, from sublime worlds of light, who is 
above all works; health and purity (or victory), strength and sound- 
ness, speaking and hearing, joy of heart and a fbrgiver of sins may 
there be for my soul, mine, N. of N. (the name of the reciter), who 
have prayed this prayer and rahmta, and a forgiver of sins may there 
be for N. son of N. (the name of the dead person) of this masiqta 
(ascension) and dukhrana (mention, remembrance), and a forgiver 
of sins may there be for our fathers, and teachers, and brothers and 
sisters, both those who have left the body and those still in the body, 
and a forgiver of sins may there be for me.' 

All the officiants recite the prayers together, and all 
repeat the four prayers for the consecration of the tagha 
(known to the priests as the l bulji_a ad qashasti, the 'qirioy' ', 
the 'anhaur anJiura\ and the 'Manda aqran}. When the 
ganzibra is reciting the last (the Man da qrati] he does so 
in the name of the dead man, while the priests stand round 
the crouching figure of the proxy. At the close of the 
prayer, the ganzibra puts the myrtle wreath on the proxy's 
head. The myrtle wreath is worn only by the proxy at 
ha-va d mani ceremonies; the priests and ganzibra wear 
none throughout. 

Next, the sh_ganda puts his right hand into the right 


r rhc .tV7 (the long object lying on the torianii} 

/A The 'dhaha J rnanlJ . Y/K/'/I? bnk]ia. 
'he man in a new /v/.i/V personates the dead 

hand of the proxy 
take it to Abathu 
heart) 'Ask, and : 
and proxy) then ei 
the forehead, grasj 
three times in' a 

The officiating 
their arms beneat 
their heels round 
take one sa, and th 
sa, holding it betw 
priests are officiatij 
of the first sa, tw( 
the shganda and gc 

They recite: 

'In the Name of th 
a forgiver of sins may i 
person) of this masiqta 
may there be for him ! 


'In the Name of th 
forgiver of sins may t 
these souls, and those 
(mttqariun] in this m 
fathers, and teachers, 
the body and those w 
there be for them.' 

They break the 
from each/<2//ra, 
partake of the eata 
kind, dipping ever 
The proxy eats w 
gdada] is spread o^ 
come into contact 
be a priest, howeve 
and arm into thejy 
gdada. If any of th 
three mouthfuls of 
They then drink w 


Eating ^ 

hand of the proxy and sa) 
take it to Abathur'. The 
heart) 'Ask, and find and 
and proxy) then each kiss 
the forehead, grasp hands 
three times in all. 

The officiating priests \ 
their arms beneath the w 
their heels round the toria 


take one sa, and the shgand 
sa, holding it between ther 
priests are officiating with 
of the first sa, two take c 
the shganda and ganzibra \ 
They recite: 

'In the Name of the Great j 
a forgiver of sins may there be fi 
person) of this masiqta (raising- 
may there be for him!' 


'In the Name of the Great '. 
forgiver of sins may there be f 
these souls, and those who are 
(mitqariuri) in this masiqta an 
fathers, and teachers, and brot 
the body and those who are sti] 
there be for them.' 

They break the sa betwc 
from each/tf//ra, dip each 
partake of the eatables on 
kind, dipping every morse 
The proxy eats with thei 
gdada} is spread over his o 
come into contact with the 
be a priest, however, the pr 
and arm into theyardna wit 
gdada. If any of those part 
three mouthfuls of anythin 
They then drink water froi 


for the Dead 217 

's, 'This troth (kushta) I bring, 
proxy replies (silently, in his 
. hear'. The two (the shganda 
their own right hand, bear it to 
again, and repeat the ceremony 

go down to the yardna^ plunge 
ater, and, returning, squat on 

na. The vanzibra and a priest 

11 i j 

a and another priest the second 

Q with the right hand. If three 
the ganzibra, two take one side 
ine side of the second sa, and 
sides opposing. 

Life, laufa and rwaha (revival) and 
:>r this soul of N. son of N. (the dead 
up) and dukhrana', a forgiver of sins 

Jfe, laufa and rwaha of Life and a 
r N. son of N. (the dead man), and 
united (mitlafiun) and called upon 
I dukhrana in thee, (bgauakh}, our 
ers and sisters, both those who left 
in the body. A forgiver of sins may 

2n each pair, eat it, take a piece 
>iece in the salt and eat it, then 
he toriana^ three times of each 
into the salt except the dates. 
L, but a clean white cloth (the 
her hands so that they do not 
food. Should the dead person 
>xy (also a priest) dips his hand 
i the others and eats without the 
cipating wish to eat more than 
; on the toriana they may do so. 
i one basin (niara\ or from the 

2i 8 Eating j or the Dead 

river or pool itself, with the usual responses: 'Mbrikhat 
marai mshabaf, &c., (see p. 189). 

Then all participants, including the proxy, who must re- 
peat the prayer in his heart if he or she knows it, together 
with all who are assembled outside the misra witnessing the 
rites, stretch out their right hands over or towards the food 
and repeat the whole Abahathan prayer or 'Our Fore- 
fathers'. I have reserved the transcribing of this prayer 
until now because it so perfectly represents the spirit of 
dukhrana. The Abahathan text in the books is so ancient 
and often copied and recopied that it has become corrupt, 
and few copies tally. In recitation, nihuilh, nihuilia^ 
nhuiliia are all pronounced nihuili^ so that the meaning has 
become vague. I cannot find agreement in the extant 
texts as to sense, and the interpretation becomes difficult. 

'A forgiver of sins may there be "for him", "for her", 
"for me", or "for them" ' after the names of recently dead 
persons, when this is a prayer to a spirit of light, or a per- 
fected ancestor, is intelligible, as a definite petition for help 
to one able to help. But, in many copies, the verb with its 
suffix is so written that one of the opening sentences may 
mean 'a forgiver of sins may there be for Abathur' or, 'A 
forgiver of sins may there be for Habshaba', a petition 
which seems superfluous, since these beings are already 
perfect and free from spot. 

I am inclined to take the whole prayer as a petition to the 
ancestors that they should help to free, not only the dead 
person in whose name the rites are performed, but other 
dead, and the living on earth, from their trespasses, and 
provide a saviour or looser of sins. 

Under protest, therefore, for all copies of the Aba- 
hathan are not the same (and my priest, when reading my 
copy, altered it 'for grammar'), I give the following version. 
My copy has, or rather had, what I think the correct 
version in most cases: i.e. 'a forgiver of sins there shall be 
('may there be', or 'is') for him' (i.e. the writer himself, 
writing of himself throughout in the third person). It is 
this method of writing out the prayer in the name of living 
persons which has led to the confusion. 

Eating j or the Dead 219 

The 'Forefathers' or 'Abahathan Qadmalia' 
(The words ''and dukhrana* are only used at Parwanaia) 

4 "In the Name of the Life and in the name of Manda d Hiia" 
is pronounced upon thee, O Good (food)! Thou shalt approach 
the goodness of the Life, and Manda d Hiia revealed it, who in the 
name of the Life uttered: '"''Tab taba Italia". And their names 

(race) shall be established who honour the names (of the dead). We 
seek and find and listen. We have sought and found, and spoken 
and listened in thy presence (lit. before thee), my lord Manda d 
Hiia, lord of health-giving powers. Forgive him (the dead man), 
his sins, trespasses, follies, stumblings, and mistakes. And forgive 
those who prepared this bread, masiqta^ and these good things 
(tabutha) their sins, transgressions, follies, stumblings, and mistakes, 
also charitable and pious persons, such as this soul of N. son of N. 
(the dead man's name) of this masiqta and dukhrana, a forgiver of 
sins may there be for him. Our first fathers, a forgiver of sins may 
there be for him (the dead man?) [or them?]! 

'Yushamin 8 son of Dmuth Hiia of this mastqta and dukhrana^ a 
forgiver of sins may there be for him. 

'Abathur, son of Bahrat of this mastqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver 
of sins may there be for him. Habshaba and Kana d Zidqa, a for- 
giver of sins may there be for them. 

'Four-and-twenty ( uthria^ sons of light of this masiqta and 
dukhrana, a forgiver of sins may there be for them. 

'Pthahil, son of Zahariil, of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver 
of sins may there be for them! (sic.) 

'Adam, son of Qin, and Eve his wife, of this masiqta and dukhrana^ 
a forgiver of sins may there be for them. 

'Shitil, son of Adam of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver of 
sins may there be for him. Ram and Rud of this masiqta and 
dukhranay a forgiver of sins may there be for them. 

'Shurbai and Sharhabiil of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver 
of sins may there be for them. 

'Shum bar Nu and Nuraitha his wife, of this masiqta and dukiirana^ 
a forgiver of sins may there be for them. 

'Yahya Yuhana,son of 'nishbai Qinta, and Anhar his wife of this 
masiqta and dukhrana, a forgiver of sins may there be for them. 

'Those three hundred and sixty-five priests who came forth from 
the place of Jerusalem, the city, of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a for- 
giver of sins may there be for them. 10 

'And for my own soul (the reciter's) N. son (or daughter) of N 

220 Eating jor the Dead 

of this masiqta and dukhrana, a forgiver of sins may there be for me, 
and for the soul of my father, N. son of N., of this masiqta and 
dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins may there be for him, and for the soul of 
my mother N. daughter of N. of this masiqta and dukhrana, a 
forgiver of sins may there be for her, and for the soul of my wife (or 
husband) N. of N. of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins 
may there be for him (or her); and for the soul of my teacher, of 
this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins may there be for him, 
and for the souls of my children (names of living and dead children 
repeated) of this masiqta and dukhrana, a forgiver of sins may there 
be for them. 

'AND FOR THE SOUL OF N. son of N. (the subject of the hava d 
maniy all joining together again) of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a 
forgiver of sins may there be for him. 

'THE SOULS OF MANDAEANS, (here begins the recital of names of 
ancestors), Ram son of Sharat Simat, of this masiqta^ &c., &c., &c. 

Zihrun son of Simat, &c. 

Anhar, daughter of Simat, &c. 

Simat daughter of Hawa, &c. 

Ram son of Simat, &c., (and others). 

dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins may there be for them. 

AND FOR THE SOUL OF N. son of N. (the subject of the hava d 
manl] of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins may there be 
for him. 

'THE SOULS OF THE PRIESTS, Adam Zahrun, son of Mamania of 
this masiqta and dukhrana, &c. 

Yahia Anush son of Maliha, &c. 

Yahia Adam Zahrun son of Hawa, &c. 

Yahia Zahrun son of Mdallal, &c. 

Sam Bahram son of Mdallal, &c. 

dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins may there be for them, and FOR THIS 
SOUL OF N. SON OF N. (the subject of the hava dmanl]^ of this 
masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins there shall be for him. 

'And this my soul, N. son or daughter of N. (the reciter) of this, 
&c., and of (he or she repeats the names of father, mother, grand- 
parents, teacher and children), &c. 

of Hawa Simat, of this masiqta and dukhrana^ a forgiver of sins, &c. 

Sam Bahram son of Simat, &c. 

Bihram Shitil son of Maliha, &c. 

Eating j or the Dead 221 

Zihrun son of Maliha, &c. 

Yahya Bayan and his brother Bihram sons of Hawa Mamani, &c. 

Ram Yuhana son of Mamani, &c. 

Bayan Zanghi son of Si mat, &c. 

Sam Saiwia son of Anhar Sharat, &c. 

Yahia son of Anhar Ziwa, &c. 

Ram Sindan and Shadia Sharat, &c. 

Hawa daughter of Daya, &c. 

Anhar Qumraitha daughter of Simat^ &c. 

Yahia Ramuia and son of Ramuia, &c. 

Sam Bihram son of Mdallal, &c. 

Adam Bahram son of Dahghan, &c. 

Adam Barhiia son of Simat Hiia, &c. 

Ibrakh Yawar, son of Buran, &c. 

Bahram Bishaq son of Hawa, &c. 

Shabur son of Dukht, &c. 

Mhattam and Shitlan sons of Haiuna, &c. 

Anush son of Mihria Zad, &c. 

Shayar Ziwa and Shabur son of Kazriil, &c. 

Bhiria son of Kushesta (Kujesta), &c. 

Zakia son of Hawa, &c. 

Ardban Melka Bakhtiar, son of Simat, &c. 

dukhrana^ a forgiver of souls may there be for them and for N. SON 
OF N. (the subject of the hava d mani) of this, &c., and for the 
soul of N. son of N. (the reciter), &c., and for the souls of, &c. 
(The names of father, mother, brothers, sisters, children, and other 
relatives are recited here individually). 

'THE SOULS OF THE RISK 'AMIA Adam bul Faraj 11 son of Hawa 
Mamani, of this masiqta, &c. 

Anush Mu'ailia son of Hawa Zadia, &c. 
Yahia Adam son of Zadia Anush Hawa, &c. 
Bihdad son of Shadia Sharat, &c. 
Bayina son of Haiuna, &c. 
Haiuna daughter of Tihuia, &c. 
Ram son of c qaimat, &c. 
Shganda son of Yasman, &c. 
Zazi Guwesta son of Hawa, &c. 

'THE PEOPLE, and all Nasuraiia and priests and Mandaeans, and 
ganzlbria andganzaiia from the age of Adam the First Man to the 
end of the world, and habitations; all who went down into the 
yardna and received pure signs, and did not behave unworthily 

222 Eating J or the Dead 

(lafakhiun) of the sign with which they were signed, and did not 
become estranged from their baptism, a forgiver of sins may there be 
for them and those of this masiqta and dukhrana^ themselves, and 
their wives, and children, and priests, and those who provided this 
bread and tabutha (health-giving food), and the forefathers, and 
teachers and learned ones, when they supported [you?] from the Left 
to the Right a forgiver of sins there is for them, and ye shall say: 
"Life is established in its dwellings, and Life be praised and Life is 
victorious over all works". Laufa and the revival (rwaha) of Life 
be yours!' 

The latter sentence is addressed to all present. 

The priests and ganzibra and shganda leave the toriani, 
stand in a row in the same order as before, and begin the 
de-consecration of the nasifa with the prayer (^Bayina mn 
hiia\ &c.), then crouch and recite a secret prayer. Rising, 
they repeat 'Zhir umzahar\ 'Kth qaimia *uthria\ &c., and 
'AtMar klil nhur ayar\ &c. When these are ended, they 
remove the tagha (taking care not to uncover the forehead 
or a penalty of sixty baptisms is incurred), hold the tagha 
before them, kiss it, carry it to each eye, and repeat the 
process sixty-one times, saying 'Kushta asiakh taghai\ &c. 

The proxy follows these movements with the klila that 
he has worn, but without speaking. If the proxy is a priest, 
he wears a tagha instead of a kllla, and is permitted to utter 
the de-consecration formulae with the priests. After he 
has kissed his klila thrice, the proxy throws it into the 
water, and goes to remove his new rasta in the shkhinta 
(an unconsecrated hut) or in the mandi^ and to resume his 
own lay clothes. He has ceased to play the role of the dead, 
and may speak again and mingle with his fellow men. 

As for the dead man, whom he has been impersonating, 
the priests say, 'The Light King gives him a robe of light, 
and he eats and is refreshed. Before, he has been weak and 
unhappy, and wearing a black robe of impurity'. 


1. Smelling the twigs of myrtle. See note 14., p. 121. 

2. Cf. Parsi "Lindeh Ravan. 'The word Zindeh-ravan means a living 
soul and is opposed to Anosheh-ravan, i.e., the dead (lit. immortal) soul. 
All the Parsee liturgical ceremonies are performed both in honour of the 

Eating j or the Dead 223 

living and of the dead. As far as the recital of the prayer goes, the prayer is 
the same except this, that at the part of the prayer where the name of the 
person, in whose honour the ceremony is performed, is mentioned in the 
Dibacheh, if he is living, the word Zindeh-ravan is mentioned ... if he is 
dead, the word anosheh-ravan is mentioned' (JJM., p. 444). 

Just like the Mandaeans, the Parsis perform the 'Sraosh' ceremony (to 
help the soul in its ascent) during the lifetime as well as after death. 

Modi says: 'During the last generation Parsee ladies, when they got their 
7,'mdeh-ravat? (here Sraosh ceremony for the dead) 'performed, looked to 
the event with satisfaction . . . from the point of view that, if on their death 
the necessary Sraosh ceremonies were not performed in their names by 
their relatives, or if some mishap e.g. that of dying in an out of the 
place locality . . . prevented their being performed, the Zindeh-ravan as the 
funeral ceremonies in honour of Sraosh, performed in their life-time would 
stand them in good stead and would have his protecting or beneficial effect' 
(JJM., p. 445). 

3. The zidqa brikha corresponds roughly to the Parsi 'Baj' of the major 
order. See next chapter. There are many subdivisions of the baj ritual meal. 

4. For a comparison of the masiqta and the Parsi Yasna ceremony, see 
the next chapter. 

5. SamandiriiL A spirit of vegetation. The name means 'Vine- 
Blossom', with the suffix -//'/attached to names of divine persons. 

6. See Chapter VI and notes on the same. 

7. The dukhrana (mentioning, or remembrance) is almost rendered by 
the Parsi Tad (remembrance) . 

'All the liturgical services, besides being performed in honour of a 
particular Heavenly being or beings, are celebrated in the name or in the 
memory of somebody who is named in the recital. The words used are . . . 
"may be remembered here". The services may be performed in the name 
or in the memory of the living or the dead. . . . The recital of the name 
of the person, whether dead or alive, for whom the ceremony is performed, 
is followed by a mention of the person who directs that the ceremony may 
be performed' (JJM., pp. 383-4). 

The word dukhrana occurs in the Pshitta at the Last Supper, which, with 
its account of the hands stretched into the dish, and the ceremonial partaking 
of bread and hamra, bears every mark of being a cult meal on the Iranian and 
Mandaean pattern. Christ uses the word, which the translators from the 
Greek render 'remembrance'. From this translation, the meaning 'mention' 
with its magic summoning of the presence of the deceased, is lacking. 

The 'feeding of the multitude' with five loaves and fish, by the shores of 
the Lake of Galilee, and the meal of Acts vi. 13, seem to record ritual 
meals. Tertullian mentions a ritual use of milk and honey. The Agape, 
or love-feast of the early Christians, is still kept up in the Nestorian 
Church (see the end of this note). These feasts were so much a feature of 
primitive Christianity that Pliny the Younger, in his Rescript to Trajan, 
A.D. 104, mentions them as its chief characteristic. In the Canons of 

224 Eating for the Dead 

Hippolytus, the agape is a 'memorial feast for the dead'. Notice 
breads are common to the Sraosh baj, the Christian meal just mentioned, 
and the present-day Nestorian qurbana, suggesting connexion with the 
five intercalary days. 

Bliss (The Religions of Modem Syria and Palestine in describing the 
rituals of the Greek Church) writes: 'On the two Saturdays dedicated to 
the commemoration of the dead (one falling eight days before Lent and the 
other on the Saturday before the Transfiguration) each family may bring 
to the church five oblations, or loaves of their own baking, wrapped in a 
cloth, with a paper inscribed with names of their dead. Money for the 
priest is also enclosed. During the preparation the priest takes crumbs 
from one of the five loaves to symbolize the commemoration of the dead 
in a particular family. At the end of each mass the head of each family 
receives back his qurban, or oblation (minus the parts used in commemora- 
tion), wrapped in the cloth. The rest of the loaves, which at any given time 
may number scores, are at the disposal of the priest, to break up for distribu- 
tion, to give away whole, or to take home, as he pleases. This practice is 
not confined to the Saturdays mentioned above, but may obtain whenever 
the dead are especially commemorated' (p. 138). 

The Moslems (Shi'a Moslems believe in purgatories) distribute food at 
the grave. Sometimes on the third day food is eaten at the grave. Food 
is distributed at intervals, especially on the fortieth day, with the idea that 
this charity assists the soul in the next world. See also p. 97. 

It is likely that the Jewish Passover meal in spite of orthodox interpre- 
tation and the text now attached to it, was originally a revivification and 
fertility rite. The hands stretched over the bread in witness, the word 
fatir applied by Iraqi Jews to the masoth. and most of the details of pro- 
cedure suggest this. Moreover Jewish mention of the dead (dukhrana, hash- 
kabd) is linked in Iraq to a ritual meal eaten in memory of the deceased. 
This meal must include 'wheat' (i.e. bread), 'fruits of the earth', and 
'fruits of trees'. 

The Nestorian dukhrana with its distribution in the church of bread and 
other foods and of meat by the church door, its reciting of names of the 
dead, and the use of the kaprana (i.e. the sa or phallus) in the qurbana, is 
close to Mandaean ritual in many particulars. The word dukh_rana is also 
applied to a love-feast, or public distribution of meat which follows the 
dukhrana in church. In this, every member of the community shares. 

8. Yushamin, according to the Ginza Rba, was the father of Abathur 
(GR., p. 173). He is one of the greatest of the Life Spirits. GR., p. 283, 
speaks of him as 'the Second Life', He plays a considerable part in the 
fourteenth book of the Ginza Rba (the book of the Great Nbat) right side. 

9. These are obviously the twenty-four hours personified. 

10. The 365 days of the solar year seem indicated. But these 365 priests 
are supposed to be those who fled to Southern Babylonia after a persecution 
in Jerusalem. Cf. the Miriai fragment in the Drasha d Yahia. 

11. This Adam bul Faraj is the hero of Legend VIII. 


I INTENDED to confine my main text to the Mandaeans 
themselves, but the relationship between Mandaean 
and Parsi ritual meals is so vitally important that it 
demands a chapter. There are, of course, points of con- 
siderable divergence. The first is that, while the Parsi 
yasna is entirely vegetarian in character, except for the 
cow-products (butter and milk), the Mandaean masiqta 
embraces the slaughter of both a sheep and a dove. I 
cannot but consider the Mandaean sacrifices (and under 
this heading, I include the burial of thefatirt) as survivals 
of some ancient rite attached to the soil. The only ritual 
text in which I have found mention of these slaughterings 
is the recently acquired Sharh d Parwanaia (D.C. 23), not 
of early authorship. Sacrifice of victims was Babylonian, 
Jewish, and also, according to Herodotus, Strabo, and 
Diogenes of Laerte, practised by the Magians in their 
time. Hence, one can surmise that it may be a Semitic 
survival in what appears to be, in the main, a rite of Aryan 

Secondly, the relative importance of fire and water 
are reversed, and, thirdly, there is the presence of an 
egg explicitly forbidden to the Mandaeans. The sacra- 
ment with milk only, which is one form of ritual meal with 
the Parsis, may be taken as the equivalent of the simple 
water-sacrament of baptism, since both are considered 
'life' fluids. 

Just as the Mandaeans have a formula pronounced over 
all food and in an amplified form over ritual meals, the 
Parsis pronounce a baj before the domestic meal, which is 
given a more elaborate form at ritual meals. The word 
baj means, according to Modi, 

'certain words or prayers religiously recited in honour of particular 
beings, such as the yazatas or angels and the Fravashis (farohars) or 
the guarding spirits of the living or the dead.' (JJM. 354.) 

4363 G g 

226 The Par si Ritual Meals 

Again, the Parsis have three forms of prayers to be 
recited as grace before meals. One of these, the longest, 
is recited by priests in the inner liturgical services. At 
the recital of this grace barsom is necessary. But it seems 
that in ancient times barsom was a requisite in even the 
simple forms of grace recited before meals. (JJM., p. 372.) 

Bajs accompanied by ritual meals are performed after 
death, particularly on the dawn of the day after the third 
night after the decease. On the latter occasion a baj 
accompanied by the consecration of white clothes and the 
eating of sacramental bread, is read for the deceased, and 
yasnas, corresponding to masiqtas, are performed in his 
name at the fire-temples. That food and clothes were ori- 
ginally intended to feed and clothe magically the spirit in 
the other world appears in the Farvardm Tasht> which puts 
the following words into the mouths of departed spirits : 

'Who will praise us ? Who will offer us a sacrifice ? Who will 
meditate upon us? Who will bless us? Who will receive us with 
meat and clothes in his hand and with a prayer worthy of bliss ?' 
(JJM, p. 469.) 

Here we get the exact intention of the Ahaba d Mania 
described in the last chapter. In general, the baj corres- 
ponds to the Mandaean zidqa brikha. Modi lays down the 
conditions for bajs of the liturgical order : 

\a) They must be recited by priests, holding the Bareshnum 
and qualified by a Khub. 

'() They must be recited over a Baj or a collection of certain 
offerings such as Daruns or sacred breads, fruits, water, milk-pro- 
ducts such as ghee or clarified butter. 

\c) Fire burning in a vase with sandalwood and frankincense is 
essentially necessary during their recital. 

'(d) They must be recited in a specially enclosed place; for 
instance in the Yazashna-gah of the temples or, when in a private 
residence, in a place specially cleaned, washed, and enclosed in 
pOva.' (JJM, p. 358.) 

(c) and (d) are paralleled by the Mandaean brihi and 
incense, and Modi's diagram of the arrangement of the 
ritual objects within the space shut off by a furrow (pavi} 
shows the fire and incense in their Mandaean position, 

The Par si Ritual Meals 227 

i.e. farthest from the priest. Pomegranate seeds, as in the 
Mandaean ritual, are placed with the 'fruits' and sacred 
loaves (damns) before the priest. 

Just as there are variations of the zidqa brikha in the 
name of holy beings in the Mandaean rite, so there are 
variations of the baj. Bajs are performed for the dead at 
intervals after death, and the dead are also honoured by 
the performance of jashans, a combination of several 
ceremonies ending in a satum, which, to judge by Modi's 
description, comes near the Mandaean lofani. 

'The Saturn prayer is generally recited over meals. In the 
Haoma Yasht (Yagna x. 18) we read: "O Haoma! these Gathas 
are for thee, these satums (staomayo) are for thee, these meals 
(chichashanao) are for thee, these words of truth are for thee." 
Hence the custom seems to have arisen to have a meal placed in a 
tray and then to recite the Saturn prayer over it. The presentation 
of the meals is symbolic, showing that there exists a kind of com- 
munion, mental or spiritual, between the living and the unseen 
higher intelligences of the dead. In the case of the dead, the living 
present their meals, as it were, to the memory of the dead, and, 
while presenting them as an offering for them, offer at the same 
time, as said above, an expression of their will to offer their good 
thoughts, good words and good deeds.' (JJM., p. 428,) 

As at the Mandaean lofani^ incense is present. 
Modi says of the wordjashan: 

'Some derive the word from 'chash' to taste, to eat, from the 
fact that the Jashans end by a kind of communion, wherein all the 
persons assembled partake of the Darun (the consecrated bread), 
and myazda (the consecrated fruits and other eatables).' (JJM., 
p. 456.) 

The myazda is the tabutha of the Mandaeans : cf. the 
prayer Zidana umzaudana (Q. 161). 

Elsewhere he describes how the hand of the recipient 
must be washed, and how he sits with the hand extended. 
The main ceremony of the jashan is the afringan. The 
afringan is a degree more in sanctity than the lay meal, 
but less than the yasna. 

'The Afringan prayers may be recited by all priests, even by 
those not observing the Bareshnum and even by those who have 

228 The Par si Ritual Meals 

not gone through the second degree of Martab. They are performed 
generally by two or more priests.' (JJM., p. 376.) 

These priests are called the zoti (the chief officiant) 
and the raspi (assistant, whose duty it is especially to tend 
the fire upon which the incense is thrown). The corres- 
pondence to the tarmida and the shganda is obvious. The 
main features are the reading of the lists of heavenly beings, 
particularly that of the heavenly being in whose name the 
afringan is performed, and the yad or remembrance, in 
which the dead person is named. (See Chap. XII, note 2.) 
This is the dukhrana, or summoning by name. The myazd^ 
or ritual food, is placed on a tray, and after the minor 
ablution (padyab-kusti\ the priest and assistant seat them- 
selves on a carpet. 

'On a sheet of white cloth, the Zoti has before him in his front 
a tray which contains myazd i.e. fruits and flowers of the season. At 
times, when there is a large quantity of the myazd, there are [sic] 
more than one tray. Besides fruit and flowers, there are milk, wine, 
water, and sherbet (syrup) in the tray in small vessels or glasses. 
Then, next to the tray containing fruit, flowers, and the above 
things, there is a fire-vase opposite to the Zoti.' (JJM., p. 391.) 

Modi says that 'originally' the sacred bread was in- 
cluded in the word myazda. (I have copied his diagram 
on Figure 9, p. 157.) 

The offering of sheep's fat at the ritual meal seems to 
have been formerly a part of the ritual for the dawn after 
the third day after death. Mod i(KRC., p. 1 69) quotes from 
Darab Hormazdyar's Rivayat, where there are orders 

'give to the fire (something) from a guspand (i.e. a sheep or a ram or 
a goat). . . . This something is, as the practice was up till late, charb, 
i.e. fat of the goat.' 

Entrail fat was, according to the Shayast-la-Shayast, 
the special portion of the Fravashis (E. W. West's transl., 
Sacred Books of the East, Vol. V, Pahlavi Texts, Pt. I, 

The five fatiri of the Mandaean zidqa brikha are 
paralleled by the five damns of the panj tu (i.e. with five 
twigs of barsom). Each loaf is consecrated to divine 
beings, the first to Sraosh, the angel concerned with the 

The Par si Ritual Meals 229 

care of the dead and bringing them into the realms of 

Modi's account oftheyasna shows the close resemblance 
between that meal and the Mandaean masiqta. 


Parsi fire-temples have separate sanctuaries attached to 
them known as Dar-i-Meher, sometimes a separate 
building. Meher (Mithra) is 'the Yazata or angel pre- 
siding over light and justice' (JJM., p. 262); anciently, 
like Shamish, associated with the same virtues of justice; 
pre-eminently, therefore, a sun genius. (The Mandaean 
Yawar Ziwa takes a prominent position in the masiqta, and 
I have already pointed out the possibility that he replaces the 
sun-god.) Within the Dar-i-Meher is found the Yazashna- 
gah, the place where the ritual meal is celebrated. 

'The different Yazashna-gahs are separated from each other by a 
pdv? (furrow to exclude pollution) 'which serves both as the limit 
of each and also as the passage for the water used in the ceremonial. 
If somebody enters within the limit marked by the pdvi while the 
service is going on, he vitiates the ceremony. If there are two 
Yazashna-gahs side by side, they are separated by a narrow strip of 
space enclosed between two paws. The Yazashna-gahs are so 
constructed as to permit the Zaoti or principal officiating priest to 
face the south.' (JJM., p. 264.) 

Nothing could be nearer to the arrangement in the 
mandl enclosure, in which the misri are connected with 
the pool so as to drain off the water used in the ablutions. 
See p. 129 and Figure 7, p. 141. 

Preliminary Ablutions 

The Mandaean yardna is replaced by the Parsis 1 by 
water drawn from the temple cistern (which must be fed 
from a stream or running water, and not from pipe-water, 
v. KRC., p. 46), in previously washed utensils. While 
letting the water-vessel brim over three times, the priest 
pronounces the name of the Caspian Sea in Pahlavi and 
Avestan, and then of the river Ardvi Sura (see pp. xxii and 
xxiii), thus clearly showing the ablution to be a substitute 

230 The Parsi Ritual Meals 

for immersion in 'living water'. All utensils and objects 
are dipped thrice. (So also the Mandaean.) 

The simple Mandaean ablution of the myrtle twigs 
(i.e. triple ablution pronouncing the name of the Life) 
becomes an elaborate ceremony with the Parsis. 

FIG. 12. The "lana d mrabia yanqia'. 

The Parsi barsom, originally freshly gathered twigs, is 
now represented by metallic substitutes, placed in two 
crescent-shaped metallic stands of brass or silver. Modi 
comments : 

'The moon and its crescent (Lat. crescere^ to grow, increase) give 
an idea of growth. Again the moon is believed to have some 
influence on the growth of vegetation. So, Barsam, the symbol of 
the vegetable world of God has, for its stand, moon-shaped metallic 
stands.' (JJM., p. 279.) 

Here the curious illustration in the Diwan Abathur of 
the "lana d Mrabia Yanqia' comes to mind, with its 

The Par si Ritual Meals 2 3 1 

crescent-shaped top. This mysterious Mandaean tree is 
said to be identical with the Sindarka (Moon-god-tree?) 
mentioned in the prayers, and the crescent suggests growth 
and fertility. 

The barsom twigs are tied together by a strip of date- 
palm, thus magically imparting to the artificial twigs a 
quality of freshness and life. Modi has a significant 
passage with reference to this ceremony. The palm-leaf 
is cut from the temple palm (cf. the Aina and Sindarka, 
the 'well and palm' of the Mandaean prayers), with a 
lustrated knife. 1 

'He' (the priest) 'then once more washes it with the pdv water 
and then placing it in the water-pot, carries it to the Yazashna-gah. 
There, he divides the leaf into six thin strips, which being divided 
at first into two groups of three each, are then twisted into one string 
and knotted at both the ends. It is then placed in a clean pdv 
metallic cup and afterwards used for tying the Barsam. We said 
above that the Barsam represents the creation of God. The separate 
twigs or wires of the Barsam represent that the creation consists of 
various parts. The aiwydonghana which binds or ties together the 
Barsam signifies union or unity among these parts. It seems to 
signify that the whole Nature is one. We are one with it. We learn 
from the Pahlavi commentary on the Ya^na . . . where aiwydonghana 
is referred to, that the idea or the main object seems to be that of 
ayo-kardgih^ i.e. of unification. The word aiwydonghana is also used 
in the Avesta for the Kusti or the sacred thread. One of the inter- 
pretations about the Kusti is, that it unites into a circle of harmony 
all those who put it on.' (JJM., pp. 292 ff.) 

^ then, has the exact meaning of lofanl 
which, to the Mandaean, has just this meaning of binding 
together, bringing into close communion. (See p. 180.) 
The ablution is as follows : 

'In the ritual, the holy water is poured over the Barsam. Now, 
this zaothra or purified water represents, or is the symbol of, rain, 
through which the world receives the gift of water from God.' 
(JJM, p. 282.) 

With the Mandaean, the water does not merely sym- 
bolize fertility, but revivification, i.e. resurrection or life 
continued after the death of the body. 

232 The Parsi Ritual Meals 

Preparation of the Bread (Darun or Myazdd) 

With the Parsis, the sacred bread may be baked by any 
ritually pure person of priestly caste. The number of 
loaves required for different occasions varies. 

'It is a flat unleavened round bread made of wheat flour and ghee 
(clarified butter). . . . For the Yana, Visparad, and the Vendidad 
ceremonies one bread is required. For the Baj the number varies. 
For the Baj in honour of all the Yazatas, four breads are required. 
For the Baj of Sraosha six are required. Out of these four and six 
half the number are what is technically known as ndm-pddeld i.e. 
named, and the other half are vagar-ndmnd^ i.e. unnamed. (JJM., 
pp. 296-7.) 

(Sraosha corresponds to the Mandaean Gauriel Ishliha, 
as well as to Yawar Ziwa; see above.) 

Modi explains that the bread-maker marks the 'named' 
loaves, the Darun proper, with three rows of three marks : 

o o o 
o o o 
o o o 

while uttering the words 'good thoughts, good words, good 
deeds' 'making three marks at each recital' (JJM., p. 279). 
(The Nestorian marking of the loaves for sacrament with 
similar marks is extremely close to this. I do not know 
whether the 'signing' ofthefafiri is allied to it; it may be.) 

Preparation of the Haoma 

The preparation of the haoma resembled that of the 
Mandaean misha (see pp. 133-4). Both are pounded in a 
mortar, the havanim and dasta of the Parsis corresponding 
to the Mandaean hawan and dast. 

''Haoma is a medicinal plant which grows in Persia and Afghani-, 
stan. It is a species of Ephedra (Nat. Ord. Gnetaceae). Mountains 
and mountain- valleys are mentioned as places where the plant grows 
luxuriantly. In some passages, Mount Elburz (called in the Avesta 
Kara Berezaiti) is specially mentioned as its habitat. But it must 
be borne in mind that the name Elburz not only denoted the present 
Mount Elburz, a peak of the Caucasus, but was applied to the whole 
range of mountains extending from the Hindu Kush in the East 

The Par si Ritual Meals 233 

to the Caucasus in the West. The haoma is described as a plant 
with branches and sprigs, as possessing medicinal properties and as 
golden-coloured.' (JJM., pp. 303 ff.) 

I shall not describe the elaborate washing of the haoma- 
twigs (which are dried), or the prayer used at their 
consecration. These, to which are added fresh pome- 
granate twigs, are pounded in the mortar together with a 
little water. The resultant juice is strained through a 
strainer. (Cf. the Mandaean pounding of the sesame and 
dates, and straining through the gdada [pp. 1334] and 
note that in each case, both that of Parsis and that of the 
Mandaeans, a pair of sacred plants is employed, haoma and 
pomegranate in one case, sesame and dates in the other.) 

There is a divergence at this point between the two 
cults in that, while the misha is used for 'signing' the 
sacred loaves, the haoma is later used as the sacred drink, 
thereby becoming identified with the Mandaean hamra. 
Like the hamra, the haoma is drunk after the priest has 
eaten the sacramental bread. 

The Arrangement of the Tables, or Stone Slabs, and the Cult 


To see how close the arrangement of the khwans (stone 
slabs or stone tables) is to the arrangement of the Mandaean 
toriani (clay tables), comparisons must be made between 
Fig. 13, p. 235 and Fig. 9, p. 157. The fire-table is bigger 
in the Parsi set, as one would expect, and a small table 
upon which a water-vessel is placed is a substitute for the 
constant Mandaean recourse to thejjwdW, or jnandi-pool. 
The qiblah for Parsis is the south and for Mandaeans the 
north, but the relative positions of priest and tables are 

The Parsi priest sits on a stone slab (the Mandaean sits 
on a log or reed stool). Before him, on the main stone 
slab, are the objects needed in the ritual. Beginning at 
the south-eastern corner of the table and moving round 
in a solar direction, these objects are as follows: 

(a) Cup to hold spare haoma juice. A saucer is placed over it. 

(b) Shallow bowl for the sacred bread and butter. 

4363 H h 

2 34 The Par si 'Ritual Meals 

(c) Mortar and pestle for pounding the haoma and pomegranate 

(d) Shallow bowl containing haoma and pomegranate twigs. 

(e) Cup containing the ring (varas-nl vltt). 
(/) The knife. 

(g) The cup containing sacramental water. 
(h) The haoma cup. 
(*') Bowl of fresh milk. 

(j) The two mahrutS) crescent-shaped stands with the Barsom. 
(k) Cup to hold the haoma-twigs for a time. 

Beyond this table is the table for the fire-vase, with two 
small stands beside it for the frankincense and sandalwood. 
Beside the priest, on his right hand, is the rounded stone- 
table (the others are square) for the water-vessel (kundt). 

Something remains to be said about some of these 
objects. As explained earlier, butter and milk represent 
the Parsi reverence for the cow and bull as symbols of life 
and pure sustenance. 

The ring is entwined with a hair from the sacred bull. 
Just as the Mandaean ring is brought into contact by 
dipping it into the cup of hamra (p. 1 60), so the varas 
ring, when the haoma is strained, is similarly treated by 
the Parsi priest. 

'The varas (ring) is put over the strainer The priest holds the 

cup containing the zaothra^ (pure) 'water in his left hand and places 
his right hand . . . over the varas in the strainer. He recites ... at 
the same time pouring zaothra water over the varas^ and rubbing 
the knots' (i.e. of the hair) 'of the varas. He recites two Ashem 
vohusy the second of which is recited in bdj 7 (silently). 'He then 
holds the strainer with the varas in his right hand, and the cup 
containing the haoma juice in his left hand; and repeating humata^ 
Mkhta^ hvarshta thrice, pours the haoma juice into the strainer, 
which is held in different positions over the stone slab as the different 
words of the triad are repeated. While reciting the word humata 
each time, he holds the strainer over the right of the stone slab, so 
that haoma juice falls over it through the strainer. On each recital 
of the word hukhta, the haoma juice is similarly dropped into the 
cup ofzaothra water, which has just been emptied into the mortar 
through the strainer and the varas with it. At each recital of the 
word hvarshta y the haoma water is allowed to drop into the mortar. 


Fire-vase stands on this 
khwdn or stone table 

These are 
incense stands 

(sandalwood and frankincense) 



(/) W 

(/) 0) 



(a) Cup to hold spare haoma juice. A saucer is 

placed over it. 

(b) Shallow bowl for the sacred bread and butter. 

(c) Mortar and pestle for pounding the haoma and 

pomegranate twigs. 

(d) Shallow bowl for the haoma and pomegranate 


(e) Cup containing the ring with bull's hair. 
/) The knife. 

) The cup containing sacramental water. 

:) The haoma cup. 
(i) Bowl of fresh milk. 
(/) The two mdhruis : crescent-shaped stands with 

the barsam standing on them. 
(k) Cup to hold haoma twigs for a time. 

Priest sits 
on this 

Khwdn (stone table) for the 
water-vessel (Kundi), 

FIG. 13. 

Arrangement of stone tables and cult objects at Parsi Yasna (ritual 
meal) in the Tazashna-gah (place where the Yasna ceremony is performed). 

236 The Par si Ritual Meals 

The haoma juice cup is now put back in its proper place on the 
stone slab and the strainer with the varas is placed over it. Then all 
the juice in the mortar a mixture of the zaothra water and the 
haoma juice, or, more properly speaking, the juice of the haoma and 
urvaram' (pomegranate) 'twigs is poured into the strainer, through 
which it passes into the haoma cup below. After its contents have 
been emptied, the mortar is once more put in its proper place.' 
(JJM.,p. 311.) 

The strainer through which the mixed juice is passed 
corresponds to the straining of the misha through a gdada^ 
but the rest of the ritual merges into that of the hamra. 
Like the Mandaean misha^ the haoma is prepared before 
the ritual meal. The stone slabs are purified by pouring 
water over them with a cross-like movement, i.e. 

'. . . during the first three recitals, he pours the water so as to let it 
fall from north to south, and then, during the second three recitals, 
from west to east.' (JJM., p. 273.) 

Compare the Nestorian naming of the points of the 
compass when describing a cross above the holy loaves. 

The Parsi preparation ceremonies and rituals, called 
Paragna, are more elaborate than the Mandaean. I must 
refer the reader to the pages of Modi. The ritual meal 

The Ritual Meal 

In the opening prayers the name of the angel who is 
especially invoked (cf. Masiqta d Samandri'il, Masiqta d 
Zahrun, &c.) and the name of the person living or dead 
for whom the celebration is made, are mentioned. The 
invocation of the various heavenly powers follows (cf. 
the Mandaean Asuth Malka). Special reference is made 
to the pure water (zaothra) and the Barsom, and the 
'former invocations and offerings are repeated'. 

'He makes several passes with the Barsam held in his hands 
through the crescent curves of the Mdhrui 1 (i.e. crescent-shaped 
stands for the Barsam}. 'The Zoti then takes his seat . . .' (JJM., 

P- 3230 

There are long recitals from the yasna^ in which the 
fire-priest occasionally joins. The consecration prayers or 

The Par si Ritual Meals 237 

recitations over the Damn (bread) follow, known as the 
'Sraosh-Darun chapters of the Yasna'. 

'At particular portions of the recital of these chapters . . . the 
Zoti occasionally takes a handful of water from the kundi or water- 
vessel on his right hand, and drops it on the Barsam and on the 
aiwydonghan which ties the Barsam wires. This is a relic of the old 
times, when, instead of metallic wires used now, twigs of trees were 
used as Barsam. It was to keep these vegetable twigs fresh and 
green that the water was sprinkled over them formerly.' (JJM., 
p. 324.) 

The two priests then recite, 'I offer these things, this 
Damn, Water, Haoma, &c., through righteousness'. The 
fire-priest places incense on the fire and says: 'O ye men! 
Ye who have deserved it by your righteousness and piety ! 
eat of this Myazda, the meat offering' (JJM., p. 342). 

'Thereupon, the Zoti, who thinks himself to have been qualified 
to eat it, recites the formula of Baj or the prayer of grace, and eats 
a bit of the sacred bread (Darun) and then finishes the Baj. . . . The 
Darun then can be passed out of the Yazashna-gah and may be 
eaten by other members of the congregation if present. This is said 
to be the Darun-chashni or the ceremonial eating of the sacred 
bread.' (JJM., pp. 324-5.) 

Exact parallels are found in the Mandaean ritual. 

The haoma juice, the preparation of which is described 
above, is now drunk by the priest after the recitation of 
the haoma chapters. 

This corresponds to the drinking of the hamra, and I 
have already explained that haoma takes the place of the 
hamra as well as the misha. Prayers then follow at great 
length, then the haoma twigs are prepared for the second 
time, i.e. pounded, squeezed, and strained and afterwards 
set apart for 'the requirements of the congregation'. Here 
Modi gives a note that : 

'there is a custom though not generally observed now, to give a few 
drops of the haoma juice to a newly born child and to a dying man. 
These drops were given from the second preparation.' (JJM., 
p. 326.) 

(Cf. the misha placed on the breast of the dying sub- 
stitute for the ganzibra, p. 1 70.) 

238 The Par si Ritual Meals 

Long readings follow, including amongst other chapters 
those in praise of Sraosha ; and blessings are pronounced 
upon the house and family of the celebrant. Modi's 
description of these chapters is too long to be quoted in 
entirety, but the conclusion is strikingly Mandaean in tone : 

'The seven chapters from 63 to 69 refer to water and its con- 
secration. The 63rd praises the waters. The 64th is, to a large 
extent, a repetition of the 5oth chapter (the Spentomad Gatha) 
which praises Ahura Mazda who has created the health-giving 
waters. The 65th forms the A van Ardvigura Nyaish and refers to 
the waters of the river Ardvigura, supposed to be the modern Oxus.' 
(See note 4, p. xxii, on the relation of this river to theyardna). 'The 
Zoti holds the cup of zaofhra water in his right hand, gets down 
from his seat or his khwdn^ and looking to the waters in the kundi by 
his side, recites this chapter. Chapters LXVT-LXIX continue the 
ceremony of further consecrating the zaothra water.' (JJM.,p. 328.) 

The hamazor, 'a kind of Zoroastrian kiss of peace', is 
then exchanged by the zoti with his assistant, the fire- 
priest. This means that the right hand of each is enfolded 
in turn by the hands palm to palm of the other, each man 
then raising his finger-tips to his mouth. The giving of 
kushta by the Mandaeans is the giving of the right hand 
only, and the hand-grasp is followed (like that of theParsis) 
by each person kissing his own right hand. The Nestorian 
Christians give the hand-clasp followed by the kiss of finger- 
tips in the Parsi fashion, at the mass and other services. 
The 'Bene-Israel' of India, as Modi relates, also have the 
hand-clasp followed by kissing, and, like the Nestorians, 
pass on the hand-clasp and kiss throughout the congrega- 

The two Parsi priests complete the bdj (the Mandaean 
rahmia is a parallel), and perform the kusti (cf. Mandaean 
rishama). Then comes a ceremony which again points to 
a careful identification of the temple cistern or well with 
a river. Both go to the cistern, the zoti holding the 
havanim containing the zaothra water in his hand. 

'They face the sun and perform . . . what is called Zor-melavvi, 
i.e. to mix the zaothra consecrated water with the water of the 
well whence the water was first drawn/ (JJM., p. 329.) 

The Par si Ritual Meals 239 

Similarly, all the sacred water left over from the 
^ together with any of the sacred foods left over, is 
cast into $\&yardna* Life returns to life. 

Not only the cult itself, but the ideas behind the cult 
are identical. Can any doubt remain in the mind of the 
reader that both these rituals have a common ancestor? 
Had the Mandaeans 'imitated Parsi cults' after the coming 
of Islam, one would not find water taking precedence over 
fire, moreover in the yasna ritual there are strong indica- 
tions that this rite, which is one of revivification and magic 
formulae for the resurrection of life, was centred originally 
about the water rather than the fire. 

The point of contact, then, lies much farther back. 
The tradition of the Mandaeans that their religion and 
its original holders lived in the mountainous country 
between the Caspian and Harran i.e. that they corre- 
sponded roughly to the Umman-Manda takes on the 
colour of probability, and the history of the ritual meal, 
not only that of the Parsis and Mandaeans, but that of the 
Jews and Christians, becomes illumined with fresh light. 


i . Cf. in the 'Shal shutha' a prayer at the end of the rahmia, 'Praised are 
the great first Sindarka and Aina (Tree palm-tree and Well-spring): 
praised is the mystic Tana (Brazier ?) that rests within that first great secret 
(or hidden) Wellspring. Praised is Shishlam the Great, who sits by the 
brink (kifa) of the Wellspring and Tree.' All Parsi fire-temples must have 
a well and a palm-tree within the sacred area. 



alphabet is called by the Mandaeam 
Each letter according to them represents a 
and light, and the first and last letters, th( 
omega', are the same and represent perfection 
life. Yet they say this perfection was itself ci 
not create itself. 'When the a o (according 
narrator 'Melka d Anhura') was created, he a 
is none mightier than I!" As he said this, h< 
face of the waters the twenty-four 1 letters of tJ 
like a bridge, and said to himself, "Who cr 
I did not, therefore there must be one mighti 
A legend says that the letters were written c 
the ksuya or robe of Mara d Rabutha. Anotiu 
Hibil Ziwa as teaching Adam his letters. 

Hence, Mandaeans look upon their alphabi 
and sacred. Writing is under the especial p 
the planet Nbu (Enwo in pronunciation). L 
alphabet, inscribed on twenty-four scraps of si 
are placed under the pillow of a person 
heavenly guidance in some matter of diffiu 
night one is removed, and if the sleeper ] 
bearing upon the matter about which he is 
considers that the spirit belonging to the letl 
has singled and taken out that night has ( 
revelation and is willing to come to his aid. 
henceforth worn as a charm round his neck. ]\ 
scrolls begin with the letters of the alphabet g 
order, and often with their vowel modifications 
reading of letters aloud is a charm to keep of 
This reading of the letters, or exorcism, has its 
'to abaga . Abaga is equivalent to 'he read a 

The first and last letters have as their s 
possibly representing the sun-disk as a sym 
They are pronounced like the vowel a. It is w 
bering that the Phoenician 'aleph' ^ (our jf 


Mandaeans the abaga. 
presents a power of life 
etters, the 'alpha and 

perfection of light and 
as itself created, it did 
(according to another 
jated, he cried, "There 
aid this, he saw on the 
otters of the alphabet, 

"Who created these? 
me mightier than I !" ' 
2 written originally on 
ia. Another represents 
eir alphabet as magical 

especial protection of 
iation). Letters of the 
scraps of silver or gold, 
a person who desires 
^r of difficulty. Each 
; sleeper has a dream 
lich he is troubled, he 

to the letter which he 
ight has given him a 
) his aid. The letter is 
dsneck. Most magical 
alphabet given in their 
dificationsaswell. The 
to keep off evil spirits, 
sm, has its own verb 
! he read a spell', 
as their sign a circle, 

as a symbol of light. 
[ a. It is worth remem- 
(our A) is the ox- 

head, alpha meani 
bolical of the sky a: 

The vowels ari 
similarly, may rep 
angular shape hav 
clarity. The pronu 
it would be if it hai 

Mandaean expl 
symbols are intere 
some cases the or 
forgotten. Over sc 
doubt, over others 
priest, the other a r 
I give both explan 

O (A) The highest 

Ba 'Ab.' The* 

Ga (i) 'Gauriil 
(2) 'Gimra c 

Da 'Dirka' the 

Ha (i) Hiia rbia 
(2) HibilZi 

Wa 'Weyli!' (wr 
to the Ian 

Za 'Ziwa.' Th 

The chan 
the horizc 

Eh 'This letter 

tion. Th 
person sin 
wir ja, 

ing 'him', 
and V. 
its proper 

The Mam 

head, alpha meaning 'ox 
bolical of the sky and of th 

The vowels are modi 
similarly, may represent i 
angular shape having bee 
clarity. The pronunciatioi 
it would be if it had been 

Mandaean explanation! 
symbols are interesting a 
some cases the original s 
forgotten. Over some lett 
doubt, over others none, 
priest, the other a member 
I give both explanations v 

O (A) The highest of all- 
beginning and end i 

Ba 'Ab.' 'The Great Fa 

Ga (i) 'Gauriil Ishliha', 
(2) 'Gimra anat Gmi 

Da 'Dirka' the 'way' 01 

Ha (i) Hiia rbia. The 
(2) HibilZiwa. 

Wa 'Weyli!' (written W 
to the language oi 

Za 'Ziwa.' The word rr 

The character is e 
the horizon, or th 

Eh 'This letter is so sac 

represents the eye 
tion. The letter 
person singular. Is 
wir ja, dass die IS 
Mandaer rechnen 

Nabataern waren 
dieselben nicht eii 

The letter comi 
ing 'him', 'her', o 
and V. It is ofte 
its proper form is 

he Mandaean Alphabet 241 

tiing 'ox', and that the Bull was sym- 
and of the sun. 

re modifications of this circle, 2 and, 
present the setting and rising sun, the 
ving been adopted for the purpose of 
unciation of ^^ is precisely the same as 
ad been written separately o _t* . 
lanations of the inner meaning of the 
esting as being traditional, though in 
Anginal symbolism has obviously been 
ome letters there was disagreement and 
s none. One of my informants was a 
member of a literate and priestly family, 
tiations when they disagreed. 

st of all Perfection, Light, and Life, the 

5 and end of all things. 

Great Father.' 
Ishliha', Gabriel the Messenger. 

anat Gmira', 'Perfection thou art perfect'. 

e 'way' or law. 
bia. The Great Life. 

ivritten Wailing. 'Woe to him who listens not 
inguage of light!' 

he word means radiance, or rather active light, 
iracter is evidently a pictograph of the sun above 
zon, or the sun as a life-giver, 
r is so sacred that it is not much employed. It 
ts the eye of God.' An unsatisfactory explana- 
'he letter is used only as a suffix for the third 
ingular. Noldeke (N.,p. 59) says: 'Ferner wissen 
dass die Nabataer des Iraq (zu denen wir die 
r rechnen miissen), fur * sprechen. . . . Diesen 

:rn waren * und ,- so fremdartige Laute, dass sie 
i nicht einmal aussprachen, wenn sie arabisch 

etter coming at the end of the word and mean- 
L', 'her', or 'them', is pronounced l hi\ 'z' 5 t ha\ 
It is often written like the aleph suffix, but 
:r form is oval. 

1 1 

242 The Mandaean Alphabet 

Ta (i) 'Tab' or 'Good' (pronounced Tau).// 

(2) 'It is the bird (tayr) representing the s< 
body to return' (i.e. to the world of light). 
This is clearly the pictograph of a flyir 
of the freed soul, the 'mana' winging its v 
Great Mana. The if in several Semitic 
the bird the 'flier'. (See Contenau on 1 
Alphabet in La Civilization phenicienne 

To quote from a hymn (left side of 

deals with the joyful return of the soul afi 

'I abode in the sea 

Till wings were formed for me 

Until I was a winged creature, 

Until I was a winged creature 

And my wings lifted me up into the P 

Tss is a Mandaean word for 'to fly', but 1 

root isphr (pahr). 

Ya (i) 'Yowmono' (the day). 

(2) 'Yamin' (the right). 

The right is symbolical of Light, the le 
the right of being and the left of non-be 
Ka (i) 'Klila' (the wreath of myrtle). 

(2) Kushta (Right, right-dealing). 
La (i) 'Lishan' (the tongue) which praises. 

(2) Alma (the world). (Obviously wrong). 
Ma 'Mana Rba Kabira.' The Great First Mi] 
Na 'Nhura' (Light). 
Sa 'Simat Hiia, mother of all life.' 

' 'Ain', the eye or fountain. (Not a guttural 

merely a vowel.) 

Pa 'Pira anat Haiy'. A priest translated this 'Tl 

of life'. I suggested thatpzra meant fruit, 

persisted that it meant 'tree'. 'Anat-Hii 

transcribes Anath-Halj e] is, according tc 

female spiritual being. '. . . weibliches W 

sich wohl die Gottheit 'Anath erhalten.' 

On various meanings attributed to tf 

see Brandt ('Die Mandaische Religion', 

Sa 'Sauta anat qadmaiia.' (Thou art the f 

Qa 'Qala anat qadmaiia d Hiia'. (Thou art the fi] 


ed Tau).f/ 

enting the soul leaving the 

>rld of light). 

iph of a flying bird, symbol 

winging its way back to the 

eral Semitic scripts recalls 

ontenau on the Phoenician 

z phenicienne, Payot, Paris, 

left side of Ginza) which 
if the soul after death: 

r me 



p into the Place of Light.' 

'to fly', but the more usual 


Sha Shamish (the 
Ta 'Toba.' Rep< 
Adu (This is cou 
possessive \ 
A See the first 1 

This alphabet is 
upon the traditions 
analysis must be 1 


1 . It is indicated that 
the solar total of 24. 

2. The A. is called th 
hushenna, A< kushem 

, the left of darkness, 
ft of non-being. 

h praises. 

usly wrong). 

:at First Mind or Soul. 

t a guttural in Mandaean: 

ated this 'Thou art the tree 
meant fruit, but all present 
'Anat-Hiia' (Lidzbarski 
according to Lidzbarski, a 
reibliches Wesen, darin hat 
th erhalten.' 

ibuted to the word 'Pira' 
e Religion', p. 23). _ 
u art the first Voice, or 

lou art the first cry of Life.) 

leaving the 

bird, symbol 
back to the 

:ripts recalls 

'ayot, Paris, 

nza) which 
death : 

e of Light.' 
more usual 

The Mana 

Sha Shamish (the sun-spir 
Ta 'Toba.' Repentance. 
Adu (This is counted as 
possessive particle.) 
A See the first letter. 

This alphabet is, in its 
upon the traditions and be] 
analysis must be left to 1 


1. It is indicated that the ada a 
the solar total of 24. 

2. The A. is called the halqa\ t 
hushenna, ^ kusjkenna, &c.). 

of darkness, 

or Soul. 


i art the tree 
it all present 
/idzbarski, a 
:n, darin hat 

word 'Pira' 

Voice, or 


he Mandaean Alphabet 243 

ie sun-spirit). 


ounted as a letter always, though it is the 

e particle.) 

t letter. 

is, in itself, a suggestive commentary 

is and beliefs of those who use it, but its 

left to the skilled student of Semitic 


at the ada and the final a were put in so as to make 

the halqa\ the *- the aksa, the JL, the -uskenna (i.e. 
nna, &c.). 

(as given by Hirmiz bar Anhar] 


Ba **+ 

Bi x_iii 

Bu oni 




Gi t-t 

Gu j-i 



Da ^ 

Di ^i 

Du J-J 



Ha -*M 
Za 0\ 

Hi / 
Zi <\ 

Hu J-w 
Zu >| 




Wa -J 

Wi ^_i 

Wu jJ 



Ta AJ 

Ti ^ 

Tu a^ 




Ya 0< 


Yu >< 



Ka Ok< 

Ki LL 

Ku A4 



La AJ 

Li J 

Lu J 



Ma AT| 

Mi z^rj 

Mu xfrjj 



Na <U 

Ni y 

Nu ^ 



Sa >^IA 

Si ^JA 

Su J-JA 



Pa <y 

Sa ^/^ 

Pi . V 
1 V 

Pu -V^ 

Su ^ 

aP . 




Ra /v*H 

Ri ^id 

RU -i_a 



SHa o<3p 

SHi <^y> 




fHa ^ 

THi ^LJl 

THu ^-^1 



adu /z. 

Supplementary letters 
GH ^ 3 DHa AJ Fa ^ Ja 

* * ^"" 

[a, e, i, u pronounced as in Italian, a represents a shortened sound 
as in 'had', a is broader.] 


THIS prayer of salutation is prayed daily by the priests, at the 
beginning of the 'Rahmi' and recited before all baptisms and ritual 
meals, and rites. 


Kushta asinkhun bshumaihun dhiia rbia asutha uzakutha nihuilakh y a 
baba rba d bit rahmia yaqira asutha uzakutha nihuilkhun abahathan 
qadmaiia yaqiria asutha uzakutha nihuilakh ginza d hiia rbia 
qadmaiia yaqira asutha nihuilakh malka Mara d rabutha *ilaitha 
asutha uzakutha nihuilakh malka Tushamin dakia br Nsibtun asutha 
uzakutha nihuilakh malka Manda dHiia br Nisibtun asutha uzakutha 
nhuilakh Hibil Ziwa asutha uzakutha nihuilakh Malka 'Anush 
c Uthra asutha uzakutha nhuilakh malka Shishlam Rba asutha uzakutha 
nhuilakh malka ( Shaq Ziwa Rba qadmaiia asutha uzakutha nhuilakh 
malka Sam Ziwa dakia bukra habiba rba qadmaiia asutha uzakutha 
nhuilkhun Hibil uShitil uAnusji asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun Adatan 
uTadatan asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun Shilmai uNidbai *uthria natria 
dyardna asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun asrin warba*uthria bnia dnhura 
asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun arba gabria bnia shlama asutha uzakutha 
nhuilkhun Ansab wAnan Nsab asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun Sar uSar- 
wan asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun Zhir uZahrun uBhir uBhirun 
uTar uTarwan asutha uzakutha nhuilkhun c Urfi'il uMarffil Tawar 
Tagmur wasutha uzakutha nhuilkhun Tufin uTufafin wasutha 

C3 '"- r ~ ' ^^ ^j j j i 

uzakutha nhuilkhun Habshaba uKana d Zidqa asutha uzakutha 
nhuilkhun Malka Barbagh f Uthra asutha uzakutha nihuilakh Malka 
Shingilan ' Uthra asutha uzakutha nhuilikh Simat Hiia asutha 
uzakutha nhuilikh *zlat Rabtia asutha uzakutha nhuilikh Sharat 
Nitufta wasutha uzakutha nhuilikh Kanat Nituftatha asutha 
uzakutha nihuilikh Bihrat Anana asutha uzakutha nhuilakh Malka 
Abathur Rama asutha uzakutha nhuilakh Malka ( Ustuna Rba asutha 
uzakutha nhuilakh Abathur Muzania asutha uzakutha nhuilakh 
Malka br Zahriil asutha uzakutha nhuilakh Malka Tahia Tuhana 
asutha uzakutha nhuilakh Malka Adam gabra qadmaiia wasutha 
uzakutha nhuilakh Malka Shitil br Adam gabra qadmaiia asutha 
uzakutha nhuilkhun ya malkia w ( uthria umashkhinia uyardnia 
urhatia ushkhinatha d almia d nhura kulaikhun asutha uzakutha 
nhuilkhun ushabiq hataiia nihuilia Idilia P. br P. d haza butha 
urahmia bit shabiq hataiia nhuilia. 

246 Appendix. The 'Asuth Malka' 

TRANSLATION (Comments in Italics) 

May the Right heal you! In the name of the Great Life! 
Health and victory are thine, O Great Gate of Mercies, the 
beautiful. Health and victory are yours, our dear forefathers! (first 
fathers) Health and victory are thine, Treasure of the Great First 
Sublime Life. Health and victory are thine, Malka Lord of Lofty 
Greatness. Health and victory are thine Malka Yushamin the 
Pure son of Nisabtun (lit. Te-transplanted). Health and victory 
are thine, Malka Manda-d-Hiia son of Nisabtun. Health and 
victory are thine, Hibil Ziwa. Health and victory are thine, Malka 
'Anush 'Uthra (see p. 18). Health and victory are thine, Malka 
Shishlam Rba. (Shishlan would be 'bound us together', but the final 
'm'\ Shlam=he perfected, p. 56.) Health and victory are thine, 
great Malka 'Shaq (L. translates 'he-hopped'), the first great 
Radiancy (or 'active light 1 ). Health and victory are thine, Malka 
Sam Ziwa, the Pure, eldest, first, beloved. (L. translates Sam 'He 
produced' i.e. created). Health and victory are thine, Hibil and 
Shitil and Anush. Health and victory are yours, Adatan and 
Yadatan. (These are, according to Mandaeans, the two 'pointing 
stars' at the North.) Health and victory are yours, Shilmai and 
Nidbai, guardian *uthris of the flowing water (yardna). Health and 
victory are yours, ye twenty-four *uthris, sons of the light. (Are 
these personified hours?) Health and victory are yours, ye four 
beings, sons of perfection. (The four seasons?} Health and victory 
are yours, Ansab and consort (lit. cloud) of Ansab. Health and victory 
are yours, Sar and Sarwan (a pair, male and female, according to 
Mandaeans). Health and victory are yours, Zhir and Zihrun and 
Bhir and Bhrun (Bhir = 'chosen'-, pairs of light beings), and Tar 
and Tarwan. Health and victory are yours, c Urfi'il and Marfi'il and 
Yawar Tugmur. ( ?) Health and victory are yours, Malka Shingilan 
'Uthra (He-enraptured-me). Health and victory are yours, Sunday 
and Congregation of the Righteous. Health and Victory are yours, 
Malka Son-of-Bagh 'Uthra. (According to Chwolson, bagh was 
the portion of the rising sun which showed first on the horizon: 
hence a form of the sun-god, later 'god'. Of. Sanslcrit 'bhaga'. Chwolson 
derives Baghdad from Bagh dad, i.e. 'gift of Bagtf.) Health and 
victory are thine, Malka Shingilan 'Uthra (a repetition), and health 
and victory are thine, Simat Hiia (Treasure of Life, see p. 27). 
Health and victory are thine, c Izlat the Great (a female genius). 
Health and victory are thine, Sharat (She-was-firm) Nitufta (the 
Drop or Pearl). Health and victory are thine, Kanat Nituftatha 
(Vial-of-Drops}. Health and victory are thine, Bihrat (She-was- 

Appendix, The 'Asuth_ Malka' 247 

Chosen) Anana (cloud or spouse). Health and victory are thine, 
Malka Abathur Rama (see p. 95). Health and victory are thine, 
Malka 'Ustuna Rba (Great Pillar, or Great Body 'C/r, or Krun?). 
Health and victory are thine, Abathur Muzania (seep. 95). Health 
and victory are thine, Malka Son-of-Zahriil (i.e. Pthahtl, sec p. 95). 
Health and victory are thine, Malka Yahya Yuhana. Health and 
victory are thine, Malka Adam, First Man, and health and victory 
are thine, Malka Shitil son of Adam (this is not the Shitil of the 
famous triad, Hibil, Shitil, *j4nush). Health and victory are yours, 
O malki and 'uthri and indwellers, and flowing waters and out- 
gushings and all the dwellings of the world of light. Health and 
victory are yours, and may there be a pardoner of sin for me, N. 
son of N., who have performed these devotions (rahmia). May 
there be a forgiver of my sins!' 

I have translated 'nhuilaktt 'nhuilkhuri* 'are thine' 'are yours', 
because, though they are more literally translated 'be yours', &c., 
the idea is plainly that of a fait accompli. 'Victory' might equally be 
translated 'triumphant purity', or 'vindication', but I have followed 
Lidzbarski here. 



Some of the legends and stories here collected were obtained from 
a silversmith, Hirmiz bar Anhar, about whose personality I feel 
bound to say a few words. He comes of a priestly family, and his 
grandfather was a ganzibra with a reputation for piety and learning. 
Hirmiz possesses good looks and a handsome grey beard. He is tall, 
straight, and the owner of an attractive smile. Like his late brother, 
Zahrun, he is a clever craftsman. He has a genuine devotion to his 
religion, and is not alone in his reverence for Shamish, for I have 
heard the expression 'pray to Shamish' on the lips of an orthodox 
priest. Hirmiz is a mystic and visionary, a poet, and a lover of 
Nature. He has never been to school, and he can write or read no 
language but his own. 

'Just at the first dawn, there comes a sweet breath from the 
North Star, a pure breeze from the North. We call it Ayar 
Ziwa' (Bk. I, see p. 58). 'It is then that I have seen a being of 
light standing before me.' 

He describes his visions as being exceedingly lovely. 

'When I came to myself, I took a pencil and tried to draw 
what I had seen.' 

Another time he told me that he had wept for joy on awaking 
from a vision like this, and his wife was alarmed, thinking that he 
had a premonition of evil, for they believe in such powers of the 
mind as Celts believe in them. When I began to get into order a 
collection of Arab folk-tales (published in 1931 by the Oxford 
University Press), I remembered my old Mandaean friend, and 
wondered if he could furnish me with some Mandaean folk-tales, 
or introduce me to some one who could. When he understood what 
I wanted, he answered that he had from his father, who was skilled 
in such recitals, stories about ancient times and about the unseen 
world. At first he used Arab terms, jdnn for shibiahi^ Allah for the 
Great Life, and so on, but it was not long before he slipped into the 
words familiar to him, and I heard the Mandaean legends, gossip, 
and traditions which he had listened to as a little boy. It has seemed 
worth while to reproduce what is of doubtful value as legend with 
the rest, for, amongst dross and nonsense, there is usually treasure 
4363 K k 

250 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

in the way of typical customs, magical rites, religious beliefs, and 
national character. Hirmiz was my first, but not, of course, my 
only informant. Other Mandaeans, priestly and lay, have con- 
tributed, and stories related by Hirmiz I had again from the lips of 
others. Some have appeared in Siouffi's and Petermann's books. 
However, I make no excuse for telling twice-told legends and 
including with them the narrator's comments and explanations, 
which I always noted with care. 

Names with the exception of Sin pronounced Sen are written 
as pronounced; the written version is sometimes given in brackets. 
In narrative I have written rabba for rba. The word is pro- 
nounced much as an Englishman (not a Scot) pronounces 'rubber' 
i.e. ignoring the double 'b' and the final V and slurring the first 



A. Creation 

BEFORE the All, Melka Ziwa was. When he came into 
being he created five beings of light, and simultane- 
ously there was darkness, for wherever there is form 
there are opposites. If right exists, left exists, and the left 
side of the body, which is the portion of darkness, is the 

As there were five primal beings of light, there were 
five primal beings of darkness. Their names are : Akrun 
(Krun), their lord; Ashdum (Shdum); Gaf and Gafan; 
Hagh and Magh; and Zargi-Zargana (Zartai-Zartana). 
Gafan and Magh are the female complements of their 
lords. The darkness produced the three lords of the 
skandola (p. 37), and their names were in the shape in 
which they appear in the skandola. 1 

Melka Ziwa is the source of all life. Rays of light and 
life come from him and are transmitted to the sun and to 
the planets by the four melki in the North Star, whose 
names are Arhum Hii, Ziv Hii, 'In Hii, and Shorn Hii, or 
Sam Hii. 2 From these four come the strength and life of 


Told by a ya/ufa 

1. i.e. pictographs. 

2. Rhum Hiia (Love[-of ?]-Life) ; 'In Hiia (Source-of-Life) ; Ziu-Hiia 
(Glory-of-Life) ; Shum Hii (Name-of-Life), or Sam Hiia (Creation-of- 

B. Creation and the Flood 

The Mandaeans believe in a Supreme Being, Alaha. 
He deputed the governance of the material world, which 
is a world of non-reality, and even its creation, to regents 
(melki\ spirits of power and purity who sprang into 
existence as their names were pronounced by the Almighty. 
Of these beings, three hundred and sixty in number, 1 the 

252 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

most important is Mara d Rabutha (Lord of Greatness), 
but the divine being most directly in touch with this world 
is Hiwel Ziwa (Hibil Ziwa). 2 He created this world, dark 
and earthly, Ara d Tiwel (Arqa d Tibil) ; and a world of 
light, Mshuni Kushta. (Pp. 54-6). Hiwel Ziwa brought 
a woman named Ruhayya 2 from the seventh underworld 
of darkness, and she was pregnant. Hiwel Ziwa left her 
guarded in the upper world of darkness, and returned to 
Mshuni Kushta to say .what he had done. He was absent 
for thousands of years. Ruhayya brought forth the mon- 
ster 'Ur. 3 When born, 'Ur said to his mother 'Why are 
we alone, we two, in this world?' She replied that his 
father was a melka named Ashdum (Shdum) and that he 
had many relatives amongst the melki. 'Ur was of 
enormous size. He shouted until the worlds of light shook. 
Hiwel Ziwa came down from Mshuni Kushta and 
Ruhayya gave 'Ur a glass with which he could see his 
people in the world of light. But Hiwel Ziwa was wearing 
a talismanic face and was invisible, so, without being seen, 
he snatched the glass from 'Ur, captured him, imprisoned 
him, and confined him beneath the world in Ara d 
Nahasha, the Copper Earth, 4 and the seven material worlds 
were above him. His mother followed him below and 
became his wife. She bore him seven children, and Hiwel 
Ziwa put each child into a planet. The planets are creatures 
of God and each has a spirit in it. The names of these 
seven are Shamish, Sin or Sera, Nirigh, Bel, Enwo, Liwet, 
and Kiwan (see pp. 75-81). At a second birth she 
produced the Signs of the Zodiac. The planets rule this 
world of darkness. Thus, Nirigh is the ruler of war, Enwo 
of science and wisdom, Liwet of Love and of inventions 
such as the aeroplane. The planets are ships in which the 
melki who rule them ride. In the ship of Shamish is a 
banner, and from it streams the light of God, for it reflects 
it and transmits its rays to the world. Thus are constituted 
the world of light and darkness, the world of truth and 

The son of Hiwel Ziwa, Pthahil, by order of his father 
opened the sky, cooled the earth, loosed fountains and 

Legends of Creation, the Flood \ &c. 253 

rivers, founded mountains, made fish and birds, flowers 
with their seeds, and animals for Adam and his descen- 
dants. Awathur (Abathur) and his son (i.e. Pthahif) looked 
at their own bodies and thought of them and so produced 
the body of Adam Paghra (the physical Adam). From 
Adam's rib was taken Hawa his wife. Exactly as there 
was an Adam Paghra and a Hawa Paghra, there was an 
Adam Kasia and a Hawa Kasia-(O^// Adam and Eve). 
These and their progeny peopled the world of Mshuni 
Kushta. Adam had six children, three boys and three 
girls. The names of the three boys were Adam, Shitel, and 
Annosh. Adam son of Adam took a wife from amongst 
the children of darkness, for the world was inhabited 
before the creation of Adam by sJuviahi (shibiahia)^ 
children of blackness and darkness. From this union 
sprang children of darkness, those of humanity who are 
not Mandai. The Mandai are the children of Adam 
Paghra and Hawa Kasia. The other two sons of Adam, 
Shitel and Annosh, followed the teaching which Hiwel 
Ziwa gave their father. Hiwel Ziwa taught Adam the 
secrets of life, gave him the holy books, and instructed 
him in the arts of agriculture and writing. 


Told by z-ganzibra to a mixed company of Gentiles: hence the use of the 
word Alaha for the Supreme Being. This term in Mandaean exorcisms 
denotes an evil spirit. (See BDM., p. 17.) 

1. Siouffi mentions this number also. But the Ginza says that the melki 
and *uthri are countless. The number 360 is the number of days in the 
Mandaean year. 

2. The diminutive of the more usual Ruha. In lower Iraq diminutives 
are much used. For Ruha see p. 256 and below. 

3 . ' Ur is the mighty Serpent or dragon of the underworld upon whom 
the material world rests. Above him are the seven material firmaments and 
below him the seven underworlds of darkness. He has a fiery breath like a 
flame, and his belly is alternately fire and ice. Souls too impure to undergo 
the lighter purifications otMataratha are drawn into his belly, and amongst 
these are unbelievers. The whole story of his incestuous union with his 
mother Ruha, of their offspring, first the Planets and then the Zodiac, &c., 
is reminiscent of other Central Asian dragons, some features of the myth 

254 Legends , Magic , and Folk-lore 

being common to all. I have drawn up a table of these. The name may 
mean 'light', and Lidzfoarski sees in 'Ur and Ruha a degraded light-god 
and his mother-consort. 

Chwolson suggests several derivations which suit the Mandaean con- 
ception of 'Ur; e.g. the Sanskrit Uru 'great' (Avestan uru) : and 'die Sylbe 
Ar or Er scheint in den altsemitischen Sprachen die Bedeutung von Feuer, 
Kraft und Starke zu haben'. (Ch.S., 89 ff.) 

c Ur is variously represented in pictures and pictographs. I gave in Iraq, 
vol. i, part ii) a photograph of a drawing in the Diwan Abathur, in which 
his size but not his dragon nature appears. On the skandola he is represented 
by the snake. I give here a Mandaean drawing of c Ur, this time, not as 'a 
snake without hands and feet' as described in 'the Ginza, but as a louse. 
The commentary on the picture was as follows: 

'The worlds which extend towards the tail, seven in number, are the 
seven mataratha. The Matarta of Shamish. is that into which Shamish 
goes when he is invisible and it is dark. Under 'Ur's belly, which is of 
fire, there is black water, or the oil which produces fire, and sometimes it 
gushes upwards in flames. Beneath the black water are seven layers of 
copper-like earth, and beneath these are the kin of c Ur : Sargi-Sargani, 
Hagh and Magh, Gaf and Gafan, Ashdum, and the greatest of them all, 

4. The Copper Earth. According to the Diwan Abathur the layers of 
the 'world of darkness' are six: 'the first earth is of copper, the next earth of 
iron, another earth tin, another earth steel, another earth silver'. A ganzibra 
explained that by the 'first earth' was meant the lowest, and gave the order 
as copper, iron, brass, steel, gold, silver, dust. 

5. Skiviahi(a). Whatever the original meaning of the word shibiahia 
Lidzbarski translates planets, presumably from skaba ahia, 'seven 
brothers' it is now used as a general term for the beings Arabs c&\\jann. 
It is suggested to me that a possible derivation is )^*, (shabiha\ plural 
shabihin (shabihayya), 'praised ones' (Syriac Vv"iA. 'praise'). This 
might come to mean good spirits ( ?) hence by euphemism or degrada- 
tion spirits of any sort or evil spirits. In a long roll in my possession, 
in a description of the universe before the earthly world was created, I find, 
'and from those black waters arose and appeared evil things: from one of 
them (came) a thousand thousand mysteries, and myriad, myriad shibiahia''. 
In general the shiviahi are destructive and death-dealing, but the house 
shiviahi who appear to children, or seek refuge with men in the guise of 
white hares (see Legend XI) are harmless and often kindly. (See also 
XV, XVI, &c.) 

Above him seven heavens 







The world 
of Mandai 

/ ^~ 




atarta ad 

_ . jer bhe wat^o 
seven layers oF eaTb 

Sf.f. . . i j 

FIG. 14. 

Hirmiz's drawing of ( Ur. Many of the Mandaean similes recall the 
fact that the religion belongs to an oil-bearing region, particularly the 
scenery of the under-world pitch that bubbles and seethes, flames of fire, 
black mud, black stinking water (crude oil), and clear water that one cannot 
drink (naptha). 'The earth was over and the black waters beneath' (Ginza 
Rba). 'Pitch and oil are the sap of the trees of the underworld' (Ginza 
Rba, 6th fragment, I2th book). 


Legends, Magic, and Folk-toi 

'o 1 







-a S ? 
a* t>> 











o 1 

W u fe 

elf an 








2 -S^"a^' 
^ jf " S " 


O 2 






thin, a 


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, a m 
ire wit 
like a v 

t withoi 

ing, h 

A serpent 
feet.' A 
of huge si 
sucking m 
On skan 
as encircl 

th' . 

rld o 
ater, su 
7 heaven 
per earth 

Her firs 


South : abo 
the black 
ports 7 ea 
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Black water 

^ 8 

_s ^ s 

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sort was h 

of the Zodiac 







The twelve s 
and the pl 

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The twelve signs of the Zodiac 
(They included herself and 






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sf Piss 

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Legends c 


Ruha and Pthahi 
had finished, he ws 
fours, had a face lik 
They were puzzlec 
told them of their fi 
will send Hiwel Zi 
was in his hands, 
horrified, and said, 
blood, this house 
Hiwel Ziwa said, 'I 
of Life?' She said, 
and that is that ev 
shall be in this we 
air), running water 
thing as it is up the) 

Hiwel Ziwa retu 
and brought back 
but spoke, and pn 
give all that the Sc 
entered the body o 
and Hiwel Ziwa ta 
marry, how to bur 
and all knowledge, 
she might have her 
came to Adam son 
its skin and made 
flute, and she and . 
and sang and danc 
and said to him, '( 
went. Liwet(Vem 
and Adam son of 
of children. Ruha 
went to Adam, an 
(i.e. performed pi 
they reproached 1 
see how big she T 
had known nothin 


Legends of Crt 



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fa' -o 
'g o 
^ *=*' 

<" rtT3 
< 600 


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B g^ 



Ruha and Pthahil tried 
had finished, he was like 
fours, had a face like an a] 
They were puzzled and 
told them of their failure, 
will send Hiwel Ziwa. I 
was in his hands. Wher 
horrified, and said, 'Whal 
blood, this house of un 
Hiwel Ziwa said, 'Dost th 
of Life?' She said, 'I wil 
and that is that everythir 
shall be in this world f 
air), running water (yardm 
thing as it is up there.' 

Hiwel Ziwa returned ar 
and brought back a letter 
but spoke, and promised 
give all that the Soul had 
entered the body of Adar 
and Hiwel Ziwa taught ] 
marry, how to bury the 
and all knowledge. Ruh 
she might have her race, 
came to Adam son of Ad 
its skin and made a dru 
flute, and she and her chi 
and sang and danced. R 
and said to him, 'Come, 
went. Liwet (Venus) mac 
and Adam son of Adam 
of children. Ruha, too, 
went to Adam, and Ada 
(i.e. performed purificati 
they reproached him aft 
see how big she was in 
had known nothing, for s 

's of Creation, the Flood, &c. 257 

C. The Creation of Man 

ihil tried to make Adam and, when they 

was like a man, but moved about on all 

[ike an ape, and made noises like a sheep. 

led and went to the House of Life and 

failure, and the House of Life said, We 

Ziwa. Hiwel Ziwa came, and the Soul 

;. When the Soul saw Adam, she was 

d, 'What! must I dwell in this flesh and 

>e of uncleanness ?' And she refused. 

'Dost thou refuse the order of the House 

id, 'I will accept on one condition only, 

everything that is in the world of light 

world flowers, trees, light, ayar (pure 

:Qr(yardna), baptisms, priests, and every- 


turned and told them (the House of Life) 
:k a letter (^ngirthd). It would not open, 
promised that the House of Life would 
Soul had asked. So the Soul (Nishimta) 
r of Adam and he stood erect and talked, 
taught him reading and writing, how to 
ury the dead, how to slaughter a sheep, 
?e. Ruha saw this, and she wished that 
ier race, her people, and her portion. She 
)n of Adam, and killed a sheep, and took 
le a drum, and of its bones she made a 
d her children the Seven (planets) played 
need. Ruha went to Adam son of Adam 
'Come, amuse yourself with us!' and he 
nus) made herself like a beautiful woman, 
f Adam took her and became the father 
ha, too, disguised herself as Hawa, and 
ind Adam went into the water with her 
purifications after cohabitation). When 
him afterwards, saying, 'Did you not 
was in the water?', 1 he replied that he 
ng, for she employed sorcery. The Jews 


258 Legends, Magic ', and Folk-lore 

were of the children of Ruha and Adam. Their great men 
were the children of Ruha; Moses was Kiwan, and Abra- 
ham was Shamish. They travelled and travelled until they 
came to c Ur shalam (Jerusalem), which they called "Uhra 
shalam', 'The-road-is-complete'. They wanted books and 
Melka d Anhura said, 'A book must be written that does 
not make trouble for the Mandai', and they sent one of the 
melki Tawus Melka (i.e. Peacock King, cf. p. 94) to 
write the Torat (Old Testament). The Jews had no 
priests, so Anush 'Uthra put seed into the Jordan and the 
Jewish women drank and became pregnant and brought 
forth 365 priests. 'Inoshvey, too, drank of the water, and 
she brought forth Yahia, and all the men who were born 
of the seed sown in the Jordan were baptized and became 


i. The narrator was a priest, a good story-teller, but constitutionally 
inaccurate. Eve is always represented by Arab folk-lore as of immense size. 
Another version of the soul-story (from Hirmiz) was the following: 
'The trees and fruits of the world of light resemble those of the earth. 
When the soul was taken from Melka Ziwa, like a ball of light, and Hiwel 
Ziwa bore her in his hands to Adam, she wept, 'Why do you bear me to 
the realms of darkness ? I will not go.' He said, 'It is the command of God, 
and I must take you, but there shall be on earth trees and flowers and fruits 
which are like those in the world of light'. 

D. AND E. The Flood 

When Hiwel Ziwa told Noh that the world would be 
destroyed by water, Noh brought wood from the Harran 
and built his ark, called in our tongue a kawila or anana. 
Noh asked a sign, so he might know when it was to begin. 
(The story here follows F, see below^ until . . .) Noh arose, 
took two of all beasts and put them into the ark through 
a hole in the top, then he and his family entered and 
closed the hole, all excepting Sam, for Sam was in the 
wilds, tending his flock. The thunder came, the sky split, 
the hail descended, and the waters rose. Sam fled and his 
sheep followed him but the water came and surrounded 
them and all were drowned. 1 Sam reached the ark, seized 

Legends 6 1 / Creation, the Flood, &c. 259 

it, clambered up its side and remained on the top. There 
he stayed and was fed daily by Hiwel Ziwa. Before eating 
he washed his arms and did all that it is commanded that 
a tarmida should do, performing his ablutions daily. ( The 
story again follows F. After the return of the dove . . .) 
Then Noh cursed the crow and said, 'Henceforward at 
the time of the ripening of fruit, thou shalt not eat of it!' 
But he blessed the dove, which is called mana 'soul', and 
is purer and better than all birds. 


The narrators were a priest and a layman of priestly family. 

i . In another narrative, E, Sam, who is identified with the Good Shep- 
herd (see p. 299), managed to save his sheep but had no time to get in 
himself, so sat on the roof of the ark. Lidzbarski points out that in early 
Christian representations of the Good Shepherd in the Roman catacombs 
he is depicted near the Ark. 

F. The Mandaean Nation 

The story of our nation is this. Two hundred and 
fifty years ago the Subba, who are the true children of 
Adam Paghra and Hawa Kasia, lived in Serandlb (Cey- 
lon). 1 They were all cut off by plague except one pair, 
whose names were Ram and Rud. These had children 
who in turn multiplied until at last there were many of 
them, a race of mankind. But, after 150,000 years, by the 
command of Hiwel (Hibil) Ziwa, the whole earth broke 
into flames and only two escaped. These were Shurbey 
and Shurhabiel. These had children and multiplied and 
increased and became a people again. All this was in 
Serandib. After 100,000 years an order came from the 
House of Life to Noh (Noah), three hundred years before 
the Flood, saying, 'Build a kawila (ark), for the world will 
be destroyed by water'. Sandalwood was brought from 
the Jebel Harran, and an ark was built with a length of 
thirty gama? a width of thirty gama^ and a height of thirty 
gama. A gama is the length of my arm. Noh asked for a 
sign and was told that when an 'angara (the green shoot 
of a young reed, or gasba] appeared in the oven, that 

260 Legends, Magic, and Ftlk-lore 

should be the sign. Three hundred years later, Sam's 
wife, the daughter-in-law of Noh, was taking burning 
reeds from the tannur (clay oven) and was about to place 
her bread in it when she saw, in the midst of the fire, a 
green 'angara growing. She cut it and gave it to Noh, 
and when he saw it, his spirit was straitened within him. 
He brought a pair of all animals, even the wild ones, the 
lions and the hares, and drove them into the ark, and he 
and his daughter-in-law entered the ark. 

But Sam was outside in the chol (wilderness) herding 
his sheep. The heavens became dark, and for forty-two 
days and forty-two nights it rained, and water came down 
from Heaven and the waters of the earth rose. Sam drove 
his sheep to the mountains, but they were drowned with 
all living things. He managed to reach the ark and, as it 
was shut, he climbed on to the roof of it. There Hiwel 
Ziwa gave him food at the times appointed for eating. 
The ark was carried to and fro on the water for eleven 
months. There was nothing but water and the only thing 
to be seen on the waters was the ark. The mountains, 
countries, and cities were all covered. At last the wind 
brought the ark near Egypt, and there it stopped. Noh, 
understanding that the water had lowered, sent off the 
crow, saying to him, 'Go, fly about, and bring me news 
of the world'. The crow flew off, but, seeing a decaying 
corpse in the water, he forgot the words of Noh and began 
to eat of it. Noh waited and then, as the crow did not 
return, he set a dove (yauna) free. She flew and saw the 
crow eating the carrion, and also an olive-tree growing 
green above the water. She took a piece of the green 
olive-tree in her beak, returned to Noh and gave it to him. 
He kissed her, opened the door, and went forth from the 
ark, together with his daughter-in-law, and they saw Sam, 
sitting on the roof of the ark. 

Noh called to him, 'Descend! I am your father and 
here is your wife!' Sam descended and embraced his wife 
and father and praised the House of Life for their safety 
and health. Then he went out and built a house of clay 
in which to live, while Noh went forth to amuse himself 

Legends of Creation, the Flood, &c. 261 

on the earth, to walk abroad and recover. Ruha 3 came forth 
and saw Noh and assumed the appearance of his wife. 
She greeted him saying 'I am Anhuraita, your wife!' and 
he took her and she became pregnant and brought forth 
three sons, Ham, Yam, and Yafet. These were the fathers 
of the human race, Ham becoming father of the blacks, 
the *abid or slaves ; Yam of the white nations, Abraham 
and the Jews; and Yafet of the gypsies (Kauliyati). But 
Sam and his wife Anhar are the progenitors of the Mandai. 

Six thousand years later, the planets, who are the 
children of Ruha and 'Ur, built the Sacred House, that is 
c Ur Shalam Jerusalem. (The K'aba was built by Abra- 
ham.) In Jerusalem Ruha gave a share of her kingdom to 
Musa (Moses) of the Beni Israiil. Musa was against the 
Mandai and had quarrelled with them in Egypt. Ardwan 
(Ardban) Melka of the Mandai had a vision and heard a 
voice coming out of the House of Life saying, 'Rise, go 
out of this place because of your health and well-being'. 
He rose and took the Mandai and they went out of Egypt 
and came to the sea which became shut off, leaving a road 
with mountains of sea on either side. Thus they went 
from Egypt. But Firukh Melka, brother of Ardwan 
Melka, remained in Egypt and fought with the Jews 
there and was surrounded and discomfited by them and fled. 
Seeing the road through the sea still remaining, he went 
with his people upon it, but when they were in the midst 
of the sea, the mountains of water closed upon them and 
they were all drowned. 

Ardwan Melka with his sixty thousand Mandai 
travelled and travelled till at last they came to the Tura d 
Maddai.4 The mountain opened to them, for it was high, 
big, and impassable, and they entered and went behind it. 
It closed again and Hiwel Ziwa said to Ardwan Melka 
'Remain here with the Mandaeans, and the Twelve [signs 
of the Zodiac] and the Seven [planets] shall not rule over 
you'. Musa pursued them, but when he reached the Tura 
d Maddai, he could go no further and so returned and 
went to 'Urshalam. 

There the Jews lived until Yahia (John the Baptist) was 

262 Legends, Magic, and oik-lore 

born of 'Inoshwey. Now Zakharia and 'Inoshwey were 
both old, but it happened like this : she drank water and 
became pregnant of the water. One of the Jews had dreamt 
that Zakharia would become a father and that his son 
would become a prophet, and they waited to kill Yahia. 
After nine months, nine weeks, nine hours, and nine 
minutes, 'Inoshwey was delivered of her son, and 'Annosh- 
' Uthra came and took the child and carried him to the 
Frat-Ziwa (the heavenly double of the Euphrates) and put 
him beneath a tree which bore a fruit like teats {ghaddfy. 
Yahia sucked its milk for thirty days and 'Annosn 'Uthra 
sent a woman named Sofan Lulaitha to tend him. On the 
thirty-first day, an 'uthra came to baptize him in theyardna 
(river). He taught him his ABG, brought him the Book 
of Souls (Sidra d Nishmatha), put it into his hands, and 
taught him to read and recite it. He taught him all the 
Way of the House of Life. When he reached the age of 
twenty-one, the *uthri consecrated Yahia and made him a 
tarmida. They taught him all the rites of the faith and 
ordered him to accompany 'Annosh ' Uthra to Jerusalem 
so that Yahia might become a prophet there. They 
brought a belum (boat) and the two travelled and went and 
came by the Shatt al-Urdan (river Jordan) to 'Urshalam. 
When they arrived, 'Annosh ' Uthra began to cry aloud, 
'If there is one here who has lost a child, let him come and 
claim his own!' The servant of 'Inoshwey heard, noted 
the description, and went back to her mistress with the 
news, saying, 'His eyes are like those of c Inoshwey and his 
face resembled that of Zakharia'. 

c Inoshwey was eighty, and had no menstruation, but 
was clean and pure. Zakharia was very old too. When the 
servant said, 'I saw a boy resembling you sitting in a 
belum in the river', 'Inoshwey rose, and in her joy went 
down to the river without an 'aba (wimple-cloak) covering 
her head. Zakharia, seeing this, was angry at her im- 
modesty and divorced her. Shamish (the sun-god) saw it 
and called out, 'I wonder that you divorce your wife 
without cause ! She ran out in joy at knowing that her son 
was alive'. Zakharia answered Shamish, 'Pardon, my 

Legends of Creation, the Flood r , &c. 263 

lord! She went forth uncovered, and I divorced her, not 
knowing the reason*. 

'Inoshwey came down to Yahia in the river and rushed 
into the water, bosom-high, throat-high, and Yahia seized 
her and kissed her. 'Annosh-'Uthra chided him, 'Why 
do you kiss this Jewess ?' (Lit. 'Why do you love a Jewess 
in her mouth', fikatgha). 'Such conduct is forbidden, why 
do you thus ?' 

Yahia replied, 'Pardon, my lord ! My Father, the Life, 
placed me for nine months in the womb of this woman. 
I lay lightly in her womb because I loved her. She is my 
mother, and the heart of every son yearns to his mother!' 

'Annush 'Uthra said, 'Yea, verily, a man must honour 
his father and his mother!' 

Then Yahia went into 'Urshalam. He opened the eyes 
of the blind, cured the sick, and made the lame to walk. 
The priests were angry and came to Yahia and ordered 
him to leave 'Urshalam. immediately. Yahia refused to go 
and defied them, saying, 'Bring swords and cut me, bring 
fire and burn me, or water and drown me!' 

And the priests replied, 'Yahia, we know that swords 
will not cut thee, nor fire burn thee, nor water drown thee'. 

When Yahia began to read in his Ginza Rabba, the 
birds of the air spoke, praising God, and the fishes opened 
their mouths and glorified the Life. 


The narrator was a Mandaean priest in Iran. The whole is an embroidery 
of narratives in the Drasha d Yahia, Ginza Rba, and Haran Gawaitha. 
The miraculous crossing of the sea occurs only in the Ginza, and in its 
Jewish form. The narrator continued the story of John, but as he kept close 
to the text in the Drasha d Yahia, it is not worth quoting farther. 

1. Al-Blrum quotes Persians and Magians as thinking that 'the first 
man came into existence on the equator, so that part of him in longitudinal 
direction was on the north, and part south of the line'. (Sachau's trans- 
lation, p. 17.) 

2. Gam a large sword. 

3. Ruha. Seep. 256. The Breath, or spirit, a personification of breath, 
or physical life. In the Ginza Ruha is the embodiment of the lure of the 
senses, the enticement of the flesh. Even when called Ruha d Qudsha (Holy 

264 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

Spirit), she does not lose her bad character probably a polemical reference. 
Another name for her is Namrus Zaina. In legend and popular belief Ruha 
assumes a kindlier character, and is again in harmony with the Great Life. 
(See Legend XXVIII.) The Tafsir Paghra, a late book, speaks of the 
ultimate union otruha and nskimta in the world of light as if they were soul 
and over-soul. 

4. From this point, the story is founded on the Haran Gawaitha, v. 
p. 6ff. 

G. Another Version of the Red Sea Story 

Para Melka was obstinate, and was punished for his 
obstinacy. The people of Egypt were of our religion, and 
Musa (Moses), who was brought up with Para Melka, 
learnt something of our knowledge. The Jews in general 
worshipped Ruha and her children, especially Yurba, and 
knew nothing of the Light or the teachings of the children 
of Light. And even to-day the Jews worship Yurba, who 
is of the Sun. Yurba is to the sun-ship what a captain is to 
an earthly ship he controls it, but he himself is under 
the orders of the Lords of Light, for the children of dark- 
ness and those who are of the portion of Ruha serve the 
children of Light. So it was that Shamish gave Musa 

The people of Musa (i.e. the Jews) and the people of 
Para Melka (the Egyptians) quarrelled, and Para Melka 
made it so difficult for the Jews that they wished to escape 
from the country and pass over the Sea of Suf. When they 
came to it, they went to the ferry which belonged to Para 
Melka, and said to the ferryman, 'Ferry us over in your 
ship'. The ferryman replied, 'I have no orders to ferry 
you across', and, try as they might, they were unable to 
persuade him. 

Now Musa had a staff, and knowledge of secret names. 
This staff had been given him by Ruha and opened into 
two parts and was called w (?). Musa took this wand and 
struck the water and uttered names, and the water became 
solid like the ground, so that people could walk upon its 
surface like dry land. . . . Then the Jews passed over the 
Sea, but Musa himself remained standing in the middle 
and did not remove from it, for, had he come out, the 

Legends of Creation, the Flood, &c. 265 

power of the names would have gone with him, and his 
people been drowned. When the last of them had passed 
over, he followed them. 

Then Para Melka and his people came in pursuit of 
them. Para Melka asked the ferryman how the Jews had 
passed over, and he said, 'They did not use my ship, nor 
did they compel me to give it to them. But Musa struck 
the water with his staff and spoke secret words over the 
water and it became dry land.' 

Para Melka said 'Strange!' And he knew whence 
Musa had this secret knowledge, for they had both studied 
together when children. 

Then Para Melka (having the same knowledge) struck 
the water with his marghna (ritual staff, see p. 39) and it 
became land. But the powers on high, who hate killing 
and the shedding of blood, saw [and disapproved], for war 
and killing are forbidden amongst the children of light. 

Therefore, when Para Melka passed over, he did not 
stop in the middle, but crossed over before all his army. 
Then, as soon as he had reached the other side, the waters 
closed upon those who were following him, and they sank 
beneath the surface. 


The narrator was Hirmiz bar Anhar. This is a common legend and 
often related. Lofani is eaten once a year for the drowned Egyptians, 
see p. 89, at the time called Ashuriyah. In the Pishra d Ainia (D. C. 21) 
Pharaoh is called Pirun malka d misraiia. 


YURBA (pron. Yur-ba) is of the powers of Darkness. 
Power is given to him, but he acts as the servant of the 
powers of Light for the powers of Light rule, and do not 
serve. Yurba is like the captain of the Lynch boats (i.e. 
the Lynch Navigation Company), who commands his boat 
but is himself under the orders of the Gumpania Lynch. 
It was Yurba who gave the Jews their power, and it was 

Abraham was of our people we called him Bah ram. 
4363 M m 

266 Legends, Magic , and oik-lore 

Yes, he was a Mandai, a Nasurai. His brother was a 
risk *amma (head-of-the-people, a king-priest), and they 
were a family of priests. Bahrain developed a sore 
(dumbala) and, because of it, he was circumcised. He was 
very troubled when this happened, for being thus he 
could no longer act as a slaughterer or priest. For the 
Mandai do not accept maimed persons, or those who have 
lost a finger, ear, or part of any member as their priests. 
These are henceforth unclean. 

He dared not tell his brother, but his brother discovered 
what had happened and said to him: 'It is written that 
you may not be a priest any more. No doubt the origin 
of your sickness was in darkness, and you committed a 
fault; for, to the pure, no sickness may come.' 

And it is so ; for, if a person lives purely and does not 
frequent people of eHshukha (Darkness) and prays and 
keeps his thoughts clean, disease and sores do not come 
upon him. If a person is strong in purity and light, he 
may go amongst evil or sick persons and suffer no hurt: 
on the contrary, he has power from Mara ad Rabutha (the 
Lord of Greatness) which goes out from him to them and 
heals them. 

Bahram said to his brother, 'It will be better if I go 
out from amongst you, and go forth into the desert*. 

So he left the city and established himself (for he was 
rich) in the desert. With him went all the unclean amongst 
the Subba; the leprous and those who were deficient 
and of these basran Sir a (moon-deficients, see p. 326) 
their descendants are unclean and deficient until the 
seventh generation. They went, the leprous and the 
unclean, with their children and their families, and Bahram 
began to worship Yurba. Yurba came to him on the wind 
and began to rule him and his people in all that they did. 
He said, 'Do thus', and they obeyed, Bahram and his 

Thus Bahram became a large tribe and a powerful 
people. Yurba had been given power in this world, and 
he gave to Bahram such magic power that fire was unable 
to burn him. 

Of Abraham and Yurba 267 

Amongst the Mandai and Nasurai also there were those 
who quarrelled [with the true believers], and they joined 
themselves with Bahram, who said to them, 'I have power 
from Yurba and can conquer'. 

They they and Bahram sought to force the Mandai, 
saying, 'Come with us and be like us, or we will fight 
with you!' 

The Mandai answered them, 'We may not fight, 
because it is forbidden to us to kill men'. 

Bahram said to them, 'Then I shall take you by force'. 
And he caught them as opportunity offered, on the roads 
or in the wilderness, and circumcised them by force, thus 
making them lacking and unclean like himself. If they 
resisted, he killed them. 

The Nasurai sent to reason with him, saying, 'Why do 
you seize people thus and circumcise them or kill them ? 
You commit sin and will be punished.' 

Bahram replied, 'My power is of Yurba and not from 
Melka Ziwa: what can you do?' 

Now there was a rish 'amma and he had power. Ruha 
herself used to appear to him. And she came to him and 
he said to her, 'Bahram is working us hurt by power of 
Yurba, what can we do against him ?' 

Ruha replied, 'He has a certain right, for when Melka 
Ziwa brought me and my children from the realms of 
darkness, I besought Melka d Anhura (the Light King) 
that I should have my portion. I said to him "Give me 
sahm, a share, something of my own". And Melka 
d Anhura granted me this and divided the world into 
periods in which I and my children had power: one por- 
tion was to the water, another portion to the fire and 
another to war.' (For a gardener who works in a garden 
has his wage, and from the time of Abraham there was a 
period of power for Ruha and Yurba.) Ruha took a boy 
and a girl from amongst the children of Adam Paghra 
(see p. 253), enticing them away by ornaments and ""songs 
and dances, and carried them away to China, where they 
increased and multiplied and became many. Their wor- 
ship was of Ruha and her children, and as these have 

268 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

sicknesses and mikrobat and diseases of all kinds in their 
hands to give or to withhold, they withheld evil gifts from 
these children of Adam, so that they grew and prospered. 

Hiwel Ziwa went to Ruha and reproached her: 'Why 
dost thou thus ?' 

She replied, 'You took me away from my people may 
I not have my portion from the children of Adam, some- 
thing of my own ?' 

He said, 'Those you have taken away may remain 
yours, but you must not take any others of the children 
of Adam.' 

Thus, likewise, Yurba had power, and it was by this 
power that Abraham became strong. It was permitted to 
Yurba and to Ruha and her children, for Hiwel Ziwa had 
taken Zahariel, Ruha's sister, to spouse, and it was be- 
cause of this that he listened to the voice of Ruha when 
she asked for her portion (of power). 

And, from that time, the Jews were strong, and the 
Prophet Musa (Moses), too, had his strength from Yurba. 

But Prophet Moses never suffered himself to be 
circumcised, neither did the prophet Jesus, for Jesus was 
of our sect, and they do not allow mutilations. 


'The first Greek book we know of in which the Jews were held up to 
odium was not written by a Greek, but by an Egyptian, Manetho, who 
wrote, under the patronage of the Ptolemaic court, a history of his people 
for the Greek public (early third -century B.C.). He gave currency to the 
story that the Jews were descended from a section of the Egyptian people 
which had been expelled from Egypt because they were afflicted with 
leprosy and scrofula.' (E. R. Bevan in The Legacy of Israel, p. 33, Oxf. 
Univ. Press.) 

A similar story is repeated by Josephus in his Against Apion, vol. v, pp. 
2061 8, as being an Egyptian calumny about Moses. Al-Biruni (A,D. 973 
1048) repeats this story in more or less the Mandaean version: 

'The remnant of these Sabians (i.e. those who followed Budhasaf, 
Buddha) are living in Harran, their name (i.e. al-Harraniya) being 
derived from their place. Others derive it from Haran b. Terah, the 
brother of Abraham, saying that he among their chiefs was the most deeply 
imbued with their religion and its most tenacious adherent. Ibn Sankila 
(Syncellus), the Christian, relates in a book which he, intending to refute 

Of Abraham and Yurba 269 

their creed, stuffed with lies and futile stories, that Abraham left their 
community simply because leprosy appeared on his foreskin, and that every- 
body who suffered from this disease was considered impure and excluded 
from all society. Therefore, he cut off his foreskin, i.e. he circumcised 
himself. In this state he entered one of their idol-temples, when he heard 
a voice speaking to him, 'O Abraham, you went away from us with one 
sin, and you return to us with two sins. Go away, and do not again come 
to us.' 

'Therefore Abraham, seized by wrath, broke the idols in pieces and left 
their community. But, after having done it, he repented and wished to 
sacrifice his son to the planet Saturn, it being their custom to sacrifice their 
children, as that author maintains. Saturn, however, on seeing him truly 
repentant, let him go free with the sacrifice of a ram.' 

(Al-Blrum denies that the Harranians sacrificed human beings.) 

The story seems undoubtedly of Babylonian, rather than Egyptian or 
Greek origin, and was invented to explain circumcision. 

Yurba (Lidzbarski transcribes mistakenly Yorabba) is in Mandaean 
literature identified with the sun. In the Drasha d Yahya he is called the 
'warlike', and in a magic roll addressed to the seven planets Shamish is 
addressed as Yurba. Since the pronunciation is Yur-ba, and not Yu-rabba, 
I think we are justified in considering Tur another form of 'Ur, or of 
Yawar, i.e. meaning 'giving blinding, dazzling light', i.e. Yur-Rba. 


RUHA was the daughter of Hagh and his wife Magh in 
the world of Darkness. It was Hiwel Ziwa who brought 
her out of the World of Darkness of which Akrun is the 
ruler. With him are Gaf and Gafan, who are male and 
female, Hagh and Magh of whom I have just spoken, 
Sargi and Sargani, 1 also male and female, and Ashdum, 
who had Ruha for consort. The lion, scorpion, and hornet 
are their symbols. 

But I will tell you how Ruha came to the upper worlds. 

Once the melki and the 'uthri, twelve thousand of 
them, wished to see Melek Ziwa (the Light King), the 
great god of all, for each had a question to ask about the 
created world, such as 'Why are the trees green ?' 'Why 
does this happen, and why that?' and so on. Each one of 
them had a question. They mounted vehicles like ships 
that moved by electricity 2 and they rose from Awathur 

270 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

until they reached the highest heaven. When they had 
attained the highest heaven, a blinding light fell upon 
them, and they could not gaze, but fell on their faces. 
Only Hiwel Ziwa, who was with them, remained upright. 

Now with Melek Ziwa are two mighty spirits called 
Shishlam Rabba, 3 the Road-Opener, and Yawar Rabba. 
Hiwel Ziwa begged Shishlam Rabba to open him a road 
through the barring light so that he might approach 
Melek Ziwa, Lord of All Things, and Melek Ziwa gave 
Shishlam Rabba permission, saying, 'Go, bring Hiwel 
Ziwa to me!' The others could not approach, but re- 
mained prostrate ; but the answers to their questions came 
into their minds without the asking. Moreover, when the 
'uthri and melki yearned to see the Lord of All, they 
beheld in their minds a Countenance of Light, which was 
the likeness of God, whose other name is Parsufa Rabba 
ad 'Iqara (Great Countenance of Glory). This is his 
secret Name, which none but the initiated know. I have 
declared this sacred name to you! When they saw this 
vision, the melki and the *uthri began to pray and worship. 

As for Hiwel-Ziwa, who had approached nearer than 
they, he received such sovereign power that whatever he 
sought, he obtained. 

He told the melki, 'I am going to descend, and to 
build a world called Olma ad eHshukha' (World of 
Darkness, i.e. the physical world). 

He descended, and went lower and lower and lower, 
for years and years, until he reached Akrun T ura a d 
.Besera (Krun, Mountain of Flesh) in the depths of creation. 
TElT whole visible world rests on this king of darkness, 
and his shape is that of a huge louse. 

When he saw Hiwel Ziwa, Akrun said, 'Why hast thou 
come to our realm ? How didst thou travel hither ? Now 
I will swallow thee up!' and he opened his mouth wide. 
The throat of Akrun is vast, and it has such power of 
suction that everything is drawn into it. 

Now Melek Ziwa had sent two powerful spirits to 
protect Hiwel Ziwa, for in the realm of spirits one is more 
powerful than another, and these fought beside Hiwel Ziwa. 

How Hibtl Ziwa fetched Ruhajrom Darkness 271 

When Akrun wished to shake Hiwel Ziwa from his 
place and swallow him, these thrust a light like a sword 
into the throat of Akrun, and the latter feared, knowing 
that a mightier than he had come and that the power of 
Hiwel Ziwa was from the King of the Light of Day. For 
Ziwa means the pure light of the day, while Anhura means 
the light of the moon. 

When Hiwel Ziwa saw that Akrun, Lord of Darkness, 
was thus smitten, he said, 'This is the work of Melek 
Ziwa!' and he commanded Akrun, saying, 'I have come 
to take Ruha. Let Ashdum, her spouse, give her up.' 
Now Ruha is the breath of life in the created world, and 
our breath is from her. 

Then the powers of darkness gave Ruha to Hiwel Ziwa, 
and, at that time, she was pregnant. With her, Hiwel 
Ziwa took a talisman, a seal, upon which were depicted 
the likeness of Gaf and the scorpion Hagh. This was to 
protect Ruha when she set out on her journey to the upper 

Ruha asked Hiwel Ziwa, 'Whither takest thou me ?' 

He showed her the path. 

Now, Ruha had a sister, named Zahariel. 4 When she 
beheld Hiwel Ziwa, Zahariel loved him, and, as nothing 
was hidden from him, he knew that she yearned for him. 
So he took her also, with Ruha. She bore him a son, 
Pthahil. So Pthahil, who takes souls to be weighed and 
sends his spirits to fetch souls from their bodies, is the 
child of both Light and Darkness. 


1. An error. Zartai-Zartanai in the Mandaean MSS. is the name of a 
single personage: his spouse is Amamit. 

2. Electricity a favourite simile with Hirmiz. 

3. Shishlam Rabba. The name occurs often in ritual, especially in 
connexion with the banner and myrtle. He is the guardian spirit of Mshunia 
Kushta and the archetype of priesthood. 

4. Zahariel. Identified with Ishtar and Venus. See pp. 46-7. 
The narrator was Hirmiz bar Anhar. 

In the 5th book (rt. side) of the Ginza Rba, Hibil Ziwa (here spoken 
of as the son of Manda d Hiia) goes to the underworld. He reaches the 

272 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

first world of darkness 'in which Ruha lived' and abides there 1,000 
myriad years 'in this world I was hidden from your eyes'. 

Then he descends into the realm of Zartai-Zartanai and his spouse 
Amamit. Here he worked as redeemer and helper for 'generations and 
generations' and 'learnt what was in their heart'. 

Next he descended into the realm of Hag and Mag, and spent 60,000 
myriad years there. 

Next, into the world of Gaf and Gafan, 'many myriads of miles lower'. 
'They resemble dragons', and proceed from 'the black, hissing, seething 
water'. He bound these monsters with their liliths and salamanders. 

From hence, he rose again and entered the world of Anatan and his 
spouse Qin. 'Qin, named Mother of Darkness.' Here again, he worked as 
redeemer and teacher. 

Then he approached Shdum, 'king of the dark world', and questioned 
him about the 'son who would fight against the world of light'. Shdum sent 
him on to the great Giu who sent him to Karkum (Krun). Hibil Ziwa 
addresses this being, 'Peace to thee, First Born, King of Darkness, Krun, 
Great Mountain of Flesh!' The great Krun tries to swallow him, but 
Hibil Ziwa 'surrounds himself with swords and Krun is wounded and sur- 
renders, crying, "Ye are gods we are mortal! Ye are great, we are small!'" 

Krun furnishes him with a pass or talisman which will enable him to 
pass without hindrance through the underworlds again. Hibil Ziwa passes 
through them to the world of Gaf and Gafan and their mother Qin, who 
gives her daughter to Gaf, her son (Ruha's brother). Ruha becomes preg- 
nant of c Ur. (Hirmiz is mistaken as to Ruha's husband). 

Hibil Ziwa relates, 'I took the form of one of them, but was lovelier 
than them all. I went then and came to )in and said to her, "Peace to thee, 
great Mother, Mother of all the world!". Thereon she spake, "Peace on 
thee, our great, beloved comrade!". I took her by the hand and said to her, 
"How many daughters hast thou, so that I may become thy son-in-law and 
sojourn with thee in this world?" ' 

Qin goes to Gaf who gives the suitor Zahriil. 

There follows a charming description of the wedding, but Hibil Ziwa 
refuses to eat and drink with them, and does not consummate the marriage, 
excusing himself, and consummating it later by a proxy, or double, repre- 
senting himself. 

Then he ascends with Ruha, who is pregnant, to the first world and leaves 
her there, guarded by 'seven walls, an iron wall in her world, so that no- 
one can take her from her world'. 

This accomplished, he returns to the world of light, but makes several 
visits to the forsaken and weeping Ruha in the guise of her husband Gaf. 
Her pregnancy lasts thousands of myriads of years, and he tells her, 'When 
thou has borne ' Ur thou wilt see me no more'. 

' Ur is born, and grows into a giant. He desires to see his parents and the 
world of light, and Ruha, mistress of magic arts, shows him the latter in a 

How Hibil Ziwa fetched Ruhajrom Darkness 273 

'Ur decides to fight against the world of light, but is bound and watchers 
are set over him. Ruha becomes his paramour, and bears first the seven 
planets and next the twelve signs of the Zodiac. 

Yawar, the spirit of light, sets the planets in their ships and lends them 
their light. 

Such is the tale told in the Ginza and its roots go back into the earliest 
antiquity. See p. 256. 

The tale is repeated in a shorter form in the 4th book, rt. side. 


QIQEL was &yalufa (literate). He loved learning and piety 
and was devout. But his heart yearned to see, so that he 
might have certainty of the spiritual world. He dwelt in 
the wilderness and in the mountains, wandering from 
place to place and worshipping God continually. He took 
with him only a little food and a skin of water, and travelled 
like that a darwlsh. 

He fared on and on, and in the midst of a desert place 
he saw a domed chamber and a darwtsji near it. The 
darwtsh had built the dome of clay, and had fashioned it 
so that just below the dome there were twelve round 
openings, thus the sun, as it travelled round the sky, lit 
each in turn. 1 The place was clean and well-tended. Qiqel 
gazed at the dome and the darwlsh asked him, 'What are 
you staring at you ?' 

Qiqel answered, 'My heart loves this building! It is 

Said the darwish, 'If your heart loves it, it is a sign that 
your honour is one who knows' (*a/im). 

Said Qiqel, 'I should like to see what is within this 

Answered the darwtsh^ 'Khatrakl For your sake, I will 
show you!' And he opened the door and they gazed 
within. At first Qiqel saw nothing but an empty, clean 

Said the darwtsh^ 'Enter and sit!' They entered, and 
Qiqel sat and the darwtsh with him. 

Then the darwtsh_ said to Qiqel, 'Gaze at that opening', 
4363 N n 

274 Legends, Magic, and "Folk-lore 

and they both gazed, and the darwtsh recited prayers softly, 
recited softly. Qiqel listened, and by degrees it appeared 
to him that he was listening to Mandaean invocations. 
He recognized Mandaean words of prayer and incantation, 
and, as he glanced into the gloom of the room, there 
appeared before him suddenly something in the guise of 
a being of light. The light played and radiated. Then he 
heard the darimsh recite, 'In the name of the Great Life! 
I have purified my hands . . .' a prayer of the King of Light. 

Qiqel gazed and he saw light, more light, light, and 
spirits of light. The more the darwtsh read the more 
radiant the light became. 

The darwtsji said to him, 'There are ninety butha 
(prayers). Each time, thirty butha must be recited.' 

After the visions had passed, they talked to each other, 
and Qiqel asked the darwtsji, 'Of what sect (milla), of 
what religion, is your honour ?' 

The darwtsh replied, 'I am alone. There were others 
like me, but the Jews killed them.' 

Qiqel said, 'Nay, but you are a Mandai!' 

Said the darwish, 'From whence knew you the Mandai ?' 

Qiqel answered him, 'I Qiqel, who sit before you, I am 
a Mandai!' 

When the darimsh. heard that, he fell into his arms and 
they kissed each other and wept, till the darwtsji said, 
'Why weep ? I am happy! My heart rejoices !' 

Qiqel said, 'And I too am happy, for I have seen that 
which I have seen!' and he said to the darwish^ 'We are 
brothers! Let us live and die together. Do not depart 
from me, and I will not depart from you. We will pray 
always together.' 

So it was. They saw many visions. They saw a vision 
of Liwet Qadeshta (Venus the Sacred) ; they saw the like- 
ness of Shamish and Sin, and the head of c Ur which is 
lifted towards Awathur, and the *uthri who are with the 
stars. They saw them in the clay room, from the openings. 

And after that they rose and collected some of the 
Nasurai and Mandai who had been scattered in the district 
and they taught them. Ten men, ten pious men, they 

The Story of Qiqel and Death of Yahya 275 

brought to be of their fellowship. And they made an 
image of him whom they had seen in the sky of him at 
whom they had gazed through the opening. They made 
images of them all in stone, of Nirigh, of Bel, of Liwet and 
Sin, and this last, of the moon, had seven heads branching 
out like a tree. Of Shamish, the sun, they also made an 
image, but they were unable to make it aright, for he is 
all light, many-eyed, of various appearances, of different 
forms which turn and wheel and radiate. But they made 
an image of a person sitting, of extreme beauty, like one 
form of Shamish. 2 When one sees Shamish in this form, 
a sweet wind breathes upon one, and one swoons away 
because of its great loveliness. All the images which were 
made and worshipped later in that place had their origin 
in the images which these two made. 3 

The name of that darwtsji was Bahram, and he had a 
special secret knowledge which he imparted to his pupils. 
When they knew it, they might be thrown into fire, and 
they would not burn, and into water, and they would not 
drown, nor would a sword eat them, for, if a man drew 
a sword against them it was he who fell, not they. Such 
power came from them that it repulsed the sword. Their 
place was in the north somewhere near Damascus, 
Jerusalem, and Egypt. 

At one time the Mandai were the masters of the north 
and of this country also. Their origin was of the moun- 
tains, and they always loved mountains better than the 
plains, for in the hills there are springs in which to bathe, 
in winter warm, and in summer cold. For our people 
have always loved bathing and washing. 

But of these darawlsh^ Bahram, Qiqel, and their 
brethren. Once a tribe, a people, came upon them and 
asked, 'Who are ye?' 

They replied, 'We are darawish who have settled here.' 

They said, l Darawtsh\ What is your occupation?' 

They answered, 'We till the ground, and harvest and 

pray. That is all.' For they had no wives. They had 

become learned in the knowledge of those who travel in 

arks (i.e. the planets) and had acquired knowledge of their 

276 Legends, Magic, and oik-lore 

speech, for all the stars talk in Mandaean. (Each star is 
far from the other and has a great world attached to it. But 
one star sees its fellows from afar off, perfectly, and they 
talk, one with another, through space. When they pray, 
it is like the singing of birds. All the stars pray. The 
northern stars pray twelve butha and the rest seven 
buwath.* A pure soul can hear the prayers of the Sun and 
the prayers of the stars in their places, like the singing of 
birds. But one day of the year they chant the name of God 
in unison, and the music of it is like the music which the 
Angrezi (English) make (in orchestras]. If a man is pure 
and knowing, he hears it, he starts from his sleep and 
prays with them, but men who are not knowing they hear 
nothing. A man who hears, does not so with his physical 
ears, he hears the singing within him (the narrator struck 
his head). Lady] a man who knows, hears the sound of 
prayer always, for everything that exists, *uthri, stars, all 
creation, prays continually!) 

The strange tribe said to the darawzsk, 'Teach us your 
knowledge, or we shall kill you!' 

They denied the possession of knowledge. 

The people and their leader rose and made a huge fire 
and said, 'Bring them here and throw them on the fire!' 

They threw them on the fire, but the darawish began 
to walk about in the fire and were not burnt. Then they 
threw more of them into the fire, but they did not burn : 
they walked in the fire. 

The leader gazed, and he thought he saw a light 
descending from the sky which turned about each one of 
them, so that the fire could not touch them; and a radiance 
shone about them. These men could not be killed for 
their power was from God. Qiqel smiled at their king 
from the midst of the fire. 

The king said to Qiqel, 'Why do you smile ?' 

Qiqel replied, 'You rule this people, yet have no under- 
standing. You cannot kill us or harm us, indeed, you 
should fear us ! Are you not afraid of such people as we ?' 

The king's advisers said to him, 'Baba! We are afraid 
of them! Let us depart! Better let us depart!' But there 

The Story of Qiqel and Death of Tahya 277 

was with the king a man who had knowledge, but of Dark- 
ness. The king said, 'Bring that one !' They brought him. 
The king asked, 'What are these people whom we are 
unable to burn ?' 

The man replied, 'These worship Melka ad Ziwa and 
Melka ad Anhura. They have knowledge of the Light 
and of the Darkness.' 

The king said, 'Can you not prevail against them ?' 
The man said, 'Never! For they do not use magic, but 
knowledge. Their power, it is of God.' 

Said the king, 'Will they not teach us their knowledge ?' 
The other replied, 'No, they never teach it!' 
The king said, 'Can you do nothing against them? 7 
The wizard said, 'By day I cannot harm them, for my 
power is of the Darkness.' 

Said the king, 'Good! Harm them by night. I want to 
test the power of your learning.' 

The magician arose, and in the night he strewed sand 
round the Mandai. They looked and understood per- 
fectly what he was doing. The sand changed, and became 
soldiers, each with a sword in his hand. When the king 
saw it, he was delighted, and cried, 'Now we can fall upon 

He went to the Mandai again, and said to them, 'Either 
teach us, or these soldiers will kill you!' 

Bahram answered, 'These soldiers can kill your soldiers 
but not us!' Said the king, 'How so?' Bahram said, 'A 
little patience, and you will see. You and your people are 
slow of understanding.' Then Qiqel read a butha of 
Pthahil (see p. 95). The soldiers advanced against them 
and were hurled back. They could not even come near 

Bahram said, 'Let no harm come to these! Let them 
return to their place!' 

The king went to the magician and said, 'See, your 
soldiers are being repulsed, they are retreating!' The 
magician replied: 'My soldiers can do nothing because 
the power of these men is stronger. Let us depart from 
them: it will be better.' 

278 Legends, Magic, and Folk-Ion 

Then the king went to Bahram and Qiqel 
am your suppliant ! I crave to know how yo 
result, that, and that only/ 

They answered him, 'We are darawtsh\ < 
the knowledge which we possess through pra 
power is of God!' 

The king said, 'With such power, why 
become sultans ?' 

They replied, 'Why should we become sul 
are sultans? God is the Sultan. Moreover, 
wish for servants to do this and that for us. ^ 
ourselves and we prepare our food with our ow] 

The king said to them, 'Good ! And if I 

They said, 'If you pray and exercise just 
become a good man.' 

He went, that king, and he left everyth 
became a darimsh^ taking nothing with hin 
and a bowl. Only, he took some precious stoi 
so that, if he were in need, he could sell them i 
was necessary. He journeyed and journey 
came to the Jordan, where Yahya was bapti 

When the king saw Yahya, he said to him, 
and Yahya baptized him. When the baptis 
Yahya began to question him, 'Who are yo 
came you?' He answered, 'I am So-and-S 
such-and-such daraimsji in the desert', tellir 
had happened. 

Yahya said, 'These people are sacred, fo 
the true name of God, and fire cannot bu 
water drown them, nor the sword eat them.' 

The king said, 'Your honour are you not 

Yahya replied, 'Aye, I am one of them. . . 

Now, as the king and Yahya were talkin 
little child aged about three years approachec 
said to him, 'Come, baptize me!' 

The king was astonished, and said to Yah 
to be baptized at his age!' 

Yahya said, 'I am tired and wish to sleep 


and Qiqel and said, 'I 
w how you get such a 

irawish\ God gave us 
rough prayer. All our 

wer, why do you not 

>ecome sultans ? What 
Vloreover, we have no 
.t for us. We work for 
ith our own two hands.' 
And if I worship and 

ercise justice, you will 

ft everything, and he 
5- with him but a bag 
ecious stones with him 

sell them and get what 
.d journeyed, until he 
was baptizing, 
id to him, 'Baptize me !' 
the baptism was over, 
/'ho are you? Whence 

So-and-So and I saw 
sert', telling him what 

sacred, for they know 

:annot burn them nor 

eat them.' 

,re you not like them ?' 

f them. . . .' 5 

rere talking together a 

ipproached Yahya, and 

aid to Yahya, 'He asks 
h to sleep now. Come 

The Story 

to-morrow, and I 
many to-day, and n 

The boy said, '. 

John came out, 
mediately Yahya s 
the river. The kin 
little, had caused 
strange thing. An 
the space of half an 

Then he awoke 
and I have slept a 1 
did you not go to t 

The child replie 

Said Yahya, 'Yc 
that be?' 

The child said, 

Yahya entered i 
into the Jordan, tl 
treated before hirr 
their heads from tl 

Yahya cried, *Y< 
from before you!' 

The child said, 

Yahya replied, ' 
from you.' 

The birds saw a 
crying out the narr 
da-t-Haiy!' again j 

Yahya said to th 
no little boy! Disc 

The child replie 
(Manda d Hiia), d 

(And, lady, wh< 
cry the name of Gc 
the sparrow, the 1 
cry one sound, 
different cries anc 
another ! But God 

id said, 'I 
:t such a 

d gave us 
-. All our 

you not 

s? What 
e have no 

work for 
vo hands.' 
rship and 

you will 

, and he 
ut a bag 
with him 
get what 
, until he 

was over, 
ind I saw 
him what 

hey know 
them nor 

ke them?' 

ogether a 
ahya, and 

'He asks 
w. Come 

The Story of 

to-morrow, and I will ba 
many to-day, and need tw( 

The boy said, 'Aye, cc 

John came out, and th 
mediately Yahya sank int 
the river. The king stare- 
little, had caused Yahya 1 
strange thing. And Yahy 
the space of half an hour. 

Then he awoke and sa 
and I have slept a long tim 
did you not go to them ?' 

The child replied, 'My 

Said Yahya, 'Your peo] 
that be?' 

The child said, 'Baptize 

Yahya entered the wat< 
into the Jordan, the water 
treated before him, leavin 
their heads from the water 

Yahya cried, 'Your hon 
from before you ! ' 

The child said, 'Baptiz 

Yahya replied, 'I canno 
from you.' 

The birds saw and cam 
crying out the names of G 
da-t-Haiy!' again and aga 

Yahya said to the child, 
no little boy ! Disclose to 

The child replied, 'Ha\ 
(Manda d Hiia\ did you n 

(And, lady, when the 
cry the name of God, each 
the sparrow, the hoopoe, 
cry one sound, whereas 
different cries and sounds 
another 1 But God gives th 

of Qlqel and Death of Tahya 279 

will baptize you, for I have baptized 
need twelve hours' sleep.' 
'Aye, come out of the water now and 

and the child gazed at him, and im- 
sank into a deep sleep on the shore of 
ng stared at the child, who, though so 
Yahya to sleep by looking at him a 
nd Yahya slept the sleep of a night in 
n hour. 

e and said to the child, 'Still waiting? 
long time ! Have you no people ? Why 
them ?' 
ed, 'My people are everywhere.' 

people are everywhere? How can 

'Baptize me now, and I will tell you!' 
the water, but when the boy stepped 
:he water rose like a mountain and re- 
n, leaving dry land. The fishes lifted 
the water and prayed. 

Four honour is no boy ! The water flees 

, 'Baptize me!' 
'I cannot! The water rises and departs 

and came and hovered over their heads 
mes of God, 'Yukhawar ZiwaP 6 'Man- 
. and again. 

:he child, 'I am your suppliant! You are 
iclose to me your nature and your name !' 
ied, 'Have no fear ! I am Manda-t-Haiy 
did you not hear the birds proclaim it?' 
:ien the birds cry in the morning, they 
rod, each in his own particular tongue 
hoopoe, the vulture, each has his own 
whereas the sons of Adam have many 
d sounds. Yes, one sparrow cries like 
I gives them the power of distinguishing 

28o Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

each other, and a cock-sparrow knows his wife out of 
thousands !) 

The child said, 'I am Manda-t-Haiy and I have come 
to take your soul above.' 

(He came in the shape of a little child, but he could take 
any shape that it pleased him fire, cloud, or anything. 
For just as when you think of a thing it takes shape in your 
mind, so great spirits can think of things, and they are !) 

The child took the hand of Yahya in his, and the soul 
of Yahya left him and his body died in the river. 

The king departed, having seen all, and been en- 
lightened, he went, and spoke to all he met of what he 
had seen and heard. 

Now, when he had left his body Yahya looked down 
and saw his corpse in the water. The birds descended 
upon it and began to peck at it, for it began to decay. The 
vulture flew down, and began to pluck out the eyes. 

Yahya gazed at it, and Manda-t-Haiy said, 'Why gaze 
on that? That is a corrupt thing, of the earth!' And 
Manda-t-Haiy seized earth and buried it. Yahya was glad, 
for he had loved his earthly body, which we call paghra 
or 'ostuna, and did not wish it harmed. And the grave 
still appears above the Jordan like a mound, and the 
Mandai know it for Yahya's grave. 

But he was taken and borne to the Realm of Light, and 
to Shamish and the Lord of Radiance, and joined in the 
perpetual worship of the Light King. 


i. Dimeshqi says: 

JLJ1 i J\ JJJI jJui. 

* 9 

jUaM J?ji\ Jc- ilk* e_p t_i-s>* 


?J (j* (_ Jj J/ij ( j^t^J]j 

& if 


The Story of Qiqel and Death of Tahya 281 

*? *' 

Ch.S., vol. ii, pp. 381-2. 

2. Hirmiz has an especial Shamish cult. He said to me once, 'I worship 
all the melki, but my especial worship is of the Sun. It is of Shamish. But 
I love them all, for all are creations of God. Even the Darkness, and for this 
reason I love even the Darkness and the creatures of Darkness, Akrun, 
Hagh and Magh, and the other beings of the Darkness. I love them all, 
for all are of God.' 

3. Images of the planets. Dimeshqi writes of the Harranians (Ch.S., 
vol. ii, pp. 408-9): 

V olT U 4\ r L^l f^U v-~- J y\5J r U^l SJLP ^>V\ ii/ll U\, 

uJ ivl uf 

Ja+I* Jb 

j L^I 1 <V ^UJ I _A ..JlJ 1 O LJ ^VJ_/ ' ci*J I3j *0>^7,o.> 

Aj U^)i Jl J-^y'Jj >$ "-rLr^i? w>-^ ULc U..-/a.i 4.1^^4 i*i U Si 

u) vt vJ 

Ijj^jli JUr ui\ Jl Ujj^riJ oLJUjJ\ 

4) (JjOJ I . JjJj 

4. According to Mandaeans: Shamish (sun) prays 900 butha a day, 
looking towards Abathur; 300 at dawn, 300 at noon and 300 in the after- 
noon (*asr). Sin (the moon) prays 100 butha, Liwet (Libat) 500, and so on. 
Cf. the Yurba fragment (JB. p. r 83 ; I fancy Lidzbarski has mistranslated 
this particular passage). 

5. I omit here a repetition of the sword, fire, and water story. Cf. JB., 
p. 96: 'The priests spoke unto Yahya in Jerusalem, "Yahya, go out from 
our places, Yohana, go out from our town. Thy voice has caused the 
temple to quake, from the sound of thy exhortations the temple quaked, 
from the thunder of thy speeches the dome of the priests quaked." There- 
upon Yahya answered the priests in Jerusalem: "Bring fire and burn me, 
bring a sword and cut me into pieces!" Then the priests answered Yahya 
in Jerusalem: "Fire burns thee not, O Yahya, for the Name of the Life has 
been uttered over thee. A sword cannot cut thee into pieces, Yahya, for the 
Son of the Life rests here upon thee.'" Yahya, the Arabic form of Yuhana, 
John, pleases Mandaean conceptions because of its meaning, 'He lives'. 

6. Tukabar Zizva. Of all the divine beings with the prefix Yu, Yukabar 
Ziwa is most often named. He is sometimes identified with Kushta, some- 
times with the Creator and sometimes with Habshaba. 

4363 o o 

282 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 


Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. There is in this legend a mixture of three. 
The only Qiqil who appears in Mandaean MSS. is the heretic Qiqil f 
Tib in the Haran Gawaitha (see p. 8). The account of the celibate and 
certainly pagan society of derwishes in the north identified with the Man- 
daeans is interesting, and their fame as astrologers and star-readers seems to 
point to some such community as the Essenes. The fire story is a Mandaean 
version of the legend told by the Arabs of Nimrud and Abraham, and by 
the Jews of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The latter story is more 
Magian than Jewish in character, and the vegetarian diet of Daniel and 
his skill as magician is Persian rather than Hebraic. 

The story of the death of John is told in the Ginza, rt. side (GR., pp. 


ONCE on a time the Mandai, the Nasurai, and the Tarmidi 
had their dwellings in Jerusalem. The Nasurai there had a 
place apart, a building in which they worshipped and 
practised their rites, so secluded that no one could over- 
look them and no one might enter it. The daughter of 
Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon (and she was a 
Jewess) 1 went to Jerusalem and hired a house next to the 
building belonging to the Nasurai. Then she made a hole 
in the wall, covering it with something transparent, so 
that she could see through it and overhear what was said, 
and what was read, and so learn their secret doctrine. She 
was very learned and quick of understanding, and after 
she had remained at the hole morning, noon, and night, 
always listening and studying, she arrived at understanding 
and learning what they read and their secret knowledge. 
Their writings, the Ta ''alum as-Siram, she learnt by heart. 
When they read from the Ginza Rabba she wrote down 
the words and conned them, until she had learnt and 
understood all. She remained in Jerusalem, studying 
thus, and did not return to her people. 

Now the Nasurai have some secret knowledge ( ( itm) 
which they only repeat softly, whispering, 2 and they meet 
to practise this on the first and fifth days (Sunday and 
Thursday). 3 She nerceived that when they were engaged 

Nebuchadnezzar's Daughter 283 

in this secret rite a light descended upon them, coming 
and going, giving and taking, between them and Heaven. 
(The narrator made the motion of descent and ascent with his 

One Sunday, one of the Nasurai remained behind when 
the others had gone out from their prayer to pleasure 
themselves in the garden: and he took that secret book 
containing the ritual which they whispered, and he began 
to read it aloud. She was listening near him, and she 
wrote it all down. In this secret ritual they (the initiates) 
conversed with the world of light : with Adam Kasya, the 
Occult Adam who is of Mshuni Kushta, and with the 
spirits of Light. For we say that there are two Adams, 
Adam Paghra, the physical Adam, and Adam Kasya, the 
secret Adam who is of the world of Mshuni Kushta. The 
people of Mshuni Kushta are pure and perfect, and only 
the pure and perfect see them. They converse freely with 
the 'uthri and the melki. 

When the princess had learnt this knowledge, she was 
very happy. She rejoiced exceedingly, and on the first day 
she began to do as they did on that day, and to perform 
their ritual with them : but they did not know that she was 
performing it, for she was always in her hiding-place. On 
the fifth day, likewise, she did as they did, and followed 
their ritual exactly. She had a chapel built in her house 
which was like their place in every particular, and kept it 
closed and secret, so that not one of her people knew what 
was in it. When thus engaged, one Sunday, she saw a 
light coming from above and falling on her face, and she 
was enraptured and spoke with the Light, not with words, 
for the Light entered into the thoughts within her head. 
She cried, 'I will go to their place! I will see the other 
World! I wish to see with my eyes, wholly!' 

The Light said to her, 'Go to the Nasurai! They will 
give you the Way/ 

On the first day of the Feast of the Five Days (Paranaia) 4 
she rose from her place and went to the Nasurai, seized 
the Ginza Rabba, and began to read it. They were amazed. 
They said, 'Can this girl be a Nasurai ?' and began to talk 

284 Le 'gends, Magic ', and Folk-lore 

amongst themselves, saying, 'This knowledge must have 
been given her by God, for who else could have been her 

The princess said to them, 'Baptize me! Make me a 

As soon as the Jews learnt of her conversion they 
rushed to the Mandai and made a great tumult and shout- 
ing. The priests, elders, and learned men of the Jews 
went to her and reasoned with her, saying, 'There will be 
killer and killed, you must return to your own place and 
marry there/ 

The girl said to them, 'I am not forced to do so, and 
there need be no killing on my account. Neither do I want 
a husband. I want neither money nor power, nor marriage. 
I only wish to serve God wholly.' 

They said to her, 'Leave the Nasurai!' 

She replied, 'I will not leave the Nasurai! You have 
not the knowledge that they have.' 

(Now this girl was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, 
and he was king of Babylon, and a Jew. Later, he left his 
kingdom and became a Nasurai, and the kingdom was 
taken by the Assyrians, who drove out the Babylonians, 
as you will hear.) 

The priests replied, 'We will kill them or learn their 

She said, 'Do not be foolish ! You cannot kill them and 
learn their secrets! If you do, God will punish you!' 

The Jews assembled in arms and wished to drag her 
away by force. 

The Nasurai said to them, 'Your daughter came to us : 
we did not compel her. Take her and go away.' 

But the princess would not agree to go with the Jews, 
and when they tried to take her by force she began to read 
her secret doctrine, and whenever they approached her, 
their breath was taken from them by some invisible means. 
The Jews began to fear, and some of them tried to kill the 
Mandai. The Nasurai arose, and by the power which they 
had on the Sunday they conversed with the spirits (melkf) 
who said to them, 'Go to the Mountain of the Mandai. *s 

Nebuchadnezzar's Daughter 285 

Many of the Mandai and Nasurai went. They prepared 
themselves for the journey and were led by the Nasurai. 
They were given such strength that, in a single day's 
march, they performed a forty days' journey. Each day 
they sowed millet, which grew and ripened by the power 
of God, so that they were never hungry. For forty days 
they travelled thus, performing in each day a forty days' 
journey. Thus, quickly and with ease, they reached the 
Mountain of the Mandai, where they were happy and 
peaceful, enjoying the beautiful climate. There they 
could pray and live untroubled, and they said, 'God has 
saved us from these people'. 

Meanwhile, some of the Jews pursued the Mandai. 
When they had travelled for forty days, they saw the 
green millet and the marks of the camp fires, and said, 
'Now we have them, and will seize them ! They must be 
near.' But they never caught them. At last, after many 
days, the Jews approached the Mountain of the Mandai, 
where the Mandai were living with the daughter of the 
King of Babylon, who had made herself a place where she 
could worship like the Nasurai. 

When they were within sight of the mountain a light 
like a sword came down from on high before them, and 
whenever one of them advanced he died. 

Their priests consulted together and said, 'There is 
no escape! We must return !' and they went back to their 
place and were sad and cast down. 

Now some Nasurai had not journeyed away with the 
rest, and the Jews came upon them and seized them. 

The Nasurai said to them, 'What do you want?' 

The Jews replied, 'We want your secret knowledge! 
Teach us and we will not kill you.' 

The Nasurai answered, 'We have no secret knowledge 
there is none!' 

The Jews said, 'Teach us! Is it not better than 

The Nasurai answered, 'There is no secret knowledge, 
so how can we teach you ? There is none!' 

Then the Jews killed one of them, and then a second, 

286 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

saying always, 'Teach us the meaning of your doctrine, or 
you shall die like these!' 

But the Nasurai continued to deny them, saying, 'Kill 
us if you will secret knowledge there is none!' 

They killed them all, and learnt nothing. 

Then the Jews went to their Temple in Jerusalem and 
assembled there rabbis and cohens they all went. 
Their heart was afraid, knowing that they had killed these 
people (wrongly]. In the morning they saw a white bird 6 
hovering above the Temple. All gazed at the bird, and, 
as they looked, a fire came from Heaven and consumed 
all those who had harried and killed the Nasurai. The 
rest of the Jews fled into the desert, fearing greatly. The 
fire was so fierce that it penetrated twelve nasakh, into 
the ground. 

Some of the Jews fled until they reached Babylon. The 
King Nebuchadnezzar (Bukhtanassar) said to the rabbis 
and cohens, 'Why did you thus ? Why did you kill these 
people of your own blood without right ?' 

They replied, 'The girl was your daughter, and we were 
angry for your sake.' 

He said to them, 'Did my daughter go because she was 
enamoured of a man?' They answered him, 'No.' 

He asked, 'What was her purpose, and why did she 

They said, 'The Nasurai have a secret doctrine, and 
that was the reason.' 

The king replied, 'I myself, and my following, we will 
go also and become of their company.' 

He and his wise men left the Kingdom and went to the 
Mountain of the Mandai. 5 Then he, and his wise men 
and all who had accompanied them, were made Mandai, 
and the king learnt the secret doctrine from his daughter. 

But, since that time, because they behaved so wickedly, 
the Jews (i.e. Chaldaeans) have had no king in Babylon. 

Whom God wishes to instruct, he causes to learn his 
doctrine, however secret, and it is my wish that you too, 
who love knowledge, shall become enlightened, even as 
this king's daughter! 

Nebuchadnezzar's Daughter 287 


1. i.e. a Chaldean. Both Jews and Chaldeans are called Yahutaiia in 
Mandaean scripts, showing that by the Mandai they were considered one 
nation. Cf. the apocryphal book of Judith (v. 6) where Achior says to 
Holofernes, 'This people is descended of the Chaldaeans'. Similarly 
Josephus (Against Afion, vol. v, p. 185) writes: 'Our original ancestors 
were Chaldaeans, and they mention us Jews in their records because of the 
relationship between us'. Generally, Nebuchadnezzar is called a Yahutai. 
Race, not religion, is implied. Cf. the English nursery rhyme, 'Nebuchad- 
nezzar, the King of the Jews, sold his wife for a pair of shoes'. 

2. The whispered prayer in baj is a great feature of the Zoroastrian 
rites. See p. 144. 

3. Both days especially dedicated to light-spirits. Sunday is the day of 
Shamish and Thursday of Bel. 

4. i.e. Parwanaia. The five intercalary days, the feast of the dead, when 
baptisms take place and meals are eaten for the dead. See pp. 212 ff. 

5. Or, of the Madai (Maddai). The Haran Gawaitha speaks of this 
as the 'Inner Harran'. See pp. 9 ff. 

6. The white eagle, usually the symbol of Hibil Ziwa. (See JB., p. 13 1 .) 


Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 

This legend is interesting because it links with the Miriai fragment in 
the Drasha d Yahya, a second Miriai fragment in the book of prayers for 
the days of the week, and the account of the 'people from the Mountain of 
the Maddai' in the Haran Gawaitha. The fragment in the Drasha d Yahya 
is told in the first person, Miriai relating her conversion (by her 'spiritual 
sister in Mshunia Kushta') and her flight to the Lower Euphrates. It 
begins, 'Miriai am I, a daughter of the kings of Babylon, a daughter of the 
mighty ruler of Jerusalem. The Yahutaiia (Chaldaeans or Jews, see above) 
bore me, the priests reared me.' There is no mention of Nebuchadnezzar. 
Miriai relates how she was forbidden by her parents to leave the shelter of 
her room or go into the highroads. She was disobedient. 'I opened the 
inner door and left the outer door open. I went into the highroad, and the 
Suns of my Master fell upon me. I wished to go to the Temple (bit 'ama) 
but my way led me into the bitmashkhana (i.e. Mandaean place of worship). 
I wenfthither and found my brothers and sisters standing there, and giving 
forth doctrines (drashia darshia).' (JB., 126 ff.) 

Listening to their voices, she became drowsy and slept. 'But thou, my 
sister in Mshunia Kushta, didst rouse-me from sleep and saidest, "Rise, rise 
Miriai ! before day dawns and the cock crows the dawn, before the sun 
casts his beams over the world, before the priests and the sons of the priests 
go forth and seat themselves in the shadow of the ruins of Jerusalem; and 
before thine earthly father comes and brings disaster upon thee !'" 

288 Legends, Magtc^ and Folk-lore 

Her father discovers her, reviles her, and accuses her of evil conduct. 
She bids him let her depart. He accuses her of having forsaken Jewry and 
gone 'to love her lord'. But Miriai refuses to abjure her new faith, and 
curses Jewry and the priests. The story then breaks into allegory, and Miriai 
is likened to a grape-vine sheltering birds from tempest. There is a reference, 
but not a description, of Miriai's flight to the Lower Euphrates. A banner 
floats above her and a book is placed in her lap. 

'She reads in the books of Kushta and shakes all worlds. The staff of 
living water (margnd] she holds in her hand, the girdle (himiana] is bound 
about her loins. She prays and preaches and the birds and fishes gather 
to listen. 'They flock towards the voice of Miriai and have no desire to lay 
themselves down and slumber. They breathe the perfume of her presence 
and forget the world.' Her mother appeals to her affection for her birth- 
place, reminds her how honoured she was in Jerusalem, and bids her 'forget 
this man who has taken thee captive and broughttheeaway'. Miriai refuses, 
refuting with scorn the imputation that she has followed a lover. A white 
eagle comes, flings the Jewish priests into the Euphrates and returns to 
bring destruction and fire on Jerusalem. Then he flies back to Miriai, 
caresses her, and is recognized by her as an ( utkra. Here the fragment 

Lidzbarski deduces from this fragment that the sect was at one time 
expelled from Jerusalem and driven into Southern Babylonia. 

The Haran Gawaitha has nothing of the Miriai fragment but describes 
a persecution of the People from the Madai mountain, followed by a 
slaughter, and the escape of a remnant. 

Of all these confused and contradictory narratives, the one stable element 
is the fact that the Mandaeans considered the Mountain of the Madai their 
true home, Southern Babylonia a place of refuge, and that Jerusalem was not 
their original centre. 

The connexion with Nebuchadnezzar is curious, but also not without 
value. It appears from the Book of Daniel that at the court of the Persian 
king a certain group of Jews were vegetarian, magicians, and it would seem 
with beliefs not far from those of the Essenes : Hence the story of Nebuchad- 
nezzar's vegetarianism ('eating the grass of the field') the madness and 
the going-on-all fours sound like the interpretation of scandalized orthodox 
priests takes on an interesting character. It is possible that at one time 
Nebuchadnezzar may have had leanings towards Iranian life-doctrines, 
and that later he returned to the more orthodox state faith (Daniel iv. 
33-6). The influence of his Median wife may have caused his lapse. 


A. A Sun Story ^ and the Rebellion of Shamish 

ONCE there was a ganzowra who prayed to Shamish. 
Shamish came down out of his boat and went to the 
ganzowra and said to him, 'Why have you summoned me ? 

Sun Stories 289 

This time I have come to you at your demand, but if you 
call upon me again, I shall harm you!' 

But the ganzowra did not heed this warning, and again 
made incantations and summoned Shamish. This time 
also Shamish came, but he was angry and said to the 
ganzowra, 'Did I not tell you not to call me ?' And he took 
the ganzowra away with him to his boat, where he was 
burnt up and destroyed utterly. 

(I said, 'Is Shamish then evil?' 

No, Shamish is not evil. Does he not pray daily nine 
hundred butha to the Melka d Anhura ? How then can 
he be evil?) 


The narrator was a priest. Petermann has a better version of this story 
(Retsen, pp. 115 et seq.). Shamish appears in the shape of a lion. The 
ganzowra is punished, not for the prayer, but for praying in anger at the 
insult of a Moslem, and also because he prayed at noon, when Shamish 
was busy. 

B. The Rebellion of Shamish 

When Shamish was first set in his ship he consumed 
and burnt all the living things of the world. Then the 
souls complained to Melka d Anhura, who took Shamish 
and imprisoned him for 360,000 years. Then Ruha went 
and begged that her son might be released, and Melka d 
Nhura put him back in his place, but he put with him 
twelve natri (guardian spirits) to see that he did no harm. 
The light of Shamish comes from his drafsha (drabsha^ 
banner), and between Shamish and the *uthri there is a 
curtain. In those days the earth was not solid and its 
surface was covered with black water. Then Pthahil came 
and created the world and Adam and Hawwa were made. 


Narrator: a priest. 


AT Shuster there is a bridge 1 over the river at a place 
called Pol. It was made by order of the ruler of that place. 
Workmen worked upon it, building it well and strongly, 
4363 P 

290 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

and brought it to completion in the space of a year. But 
the morning following its completion it was found to be 
in ruins. They built the bridge a second time, and again, 
when it was ready, it broke to pieces. This happened a 
third, a fourth, and a fifth time. At the end of the year's 
work the bridge gave way and was broken to pieces. They 
went to the wise and learned men of the country and asked 
them, 'Why should this be ?' but not one of them could 
explain it. 

Then they went and asked a ganzowra of the Mandai. 
This ganzivra was a ris]i 'amma, and learned in religion 
and in magic. He listened when they asked him why the 
bridge always fell at the end of the year's work, and then 
replied to them: 'This thing happens because of the 
children of Ruha (the planets). It is the children of Ruha 
who bring this about.' 

They said to him, 'What shall we do ? Show us a way 
out of the difficulty!' 

The ganzowra replied, 'When you have completed 
rebuilding the bridge, I will watch by night and see who 
it is that destroys it.' 

Accordingly, the night that the rebuilding was com- 
plete, the ganzowra went to watch on the bridge, and took 
with him his daughter, who was wise and understanding; 
added to that, she was very beautiful. They stood there, 
and watched and waited, and at midnight the daughter 
saw a huge man standing in the air like a cloud. She asked, 
'Who art thou?' He replied, 'I am Chachowa, son of 

The girl's father listened, and wrote down the name, 2 
and, as soon as he had written it, he began to read spells 
over him and over the people of the air, and to compel him 
and take his powers away by the names of the Powerful. 
By virtue of these, the demon's strength left him and he 
cried to the risji 'amma, 'Why dost thou bind me ? Why 
hast thou compelled me ?' 

The risji 'amma replied, 'I cannot permit you to harm 
this bridge and wreak evil on the world.' 

Chachowa answered the risk 'amma, 'I will desist from 

The Bridge at Shuster 291 

evil in the future and will abstain from wrecking the 

The risJi *amma said, 'Good! Yet I will not free you 
until you have promised to perform a task which I shall 
set you.' 

Said the demon, 'What work do you want from me?' 

Answered the risji *amma, 'I want you to transport me 
to the abode of the Nasurai and tarmidi and the Mandai.' 

The demon replied, 'I will take you thither if you will 
free me from the bonds wherewith you have bound me. 
The abode of the Nasurai is far, and I must carry you for 
forty days in order to reach it, and to take you thither I 
must delve under the ground.' Then he told the risk *amma 
that he and those who wished to go with him to the abode 
of the Nasurai must assemble together at a place now called 
Cham Subbi in Ahwaz. 

The risJi 'amma then freed him, and returning to his 
place, he assembled all the Mandai of the place and told 
them what had happened, asking them, 'Who wishes to 
come with me ? He who does not desire to go to the place 
of the Nasurai, as he wills, be it! But the willing ones 
must wait with me at Ahwaz.' 

They gathered together, the willing ones, and for 
twenty days nothing happened, nothing! Onlookers said, 
'Why have ye assembled here waiting? Do not believe 
this man, he is telling you lies ! It is all an illusion. Let 
every man go back to his work.' 

Then some of the Mandai that were silversmiths began 
to say amongst themselves, 'Indeed, it is lies! We will 
return and work!' and they left and returned to their 
place, they and their families. But others believed, and 
waited in Ahwaz with their families. At the end of forty 
days nothing had happened, and the remainder of the 
silversmiths, with the ironsmiths and carpenters all de- 
parted, unbelieving, each to his own work, and took their 
families with them. In the end, only the risk *amma and 
his family were left. 

Then, the piece of ground upon which they sat a 
large piece of ground, going deep into the earth lifted 

292 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

itself up into the air and flew. The people in the fields, 
the shepherds in the desert, and the villagers in the villages 
saw it flying in the air like an aeroplane and began to 
scream, and the dogs to bark at the sight. It flew over 
Baghdad and the people there saw it and marvelled, the 
children yelled, the cattle lowed, and the dogs barked as 
it passed over the city. 

The people of Ahwaz, when they rose the next morning, 
saw a vast chasm in the ground where the earth had been, 
and the Moslems remarked that the risk 'amma and his 
family had disappeared, and gazed and cried, 'Shinu 
hai what can this be!' They called the name of that 
hole Nasat as-Subba. 

No one knew whither those blessed people had gone, 
and, pity it was ! we, the silversmiths and craftsmen, went 
not, and saw not like they! 


1. There are many legends about the Shuster bridge, which Persian 
tradition says was built by the captive Valerian for Sapor. 

2. As soon as an exorcist knows the name of a demon he already holds 
him in power. Hence the use of secret names. The same belief in the 
power of names appears in Babylonian magic. 


Narrator: a silversmith. 

There are several versions of this story. Petermann (Reisen, p. 100) 
quotes the story: the name of the demon given to him was Sham Ban bar 


GOD gave Adam bul Faraj the power of transporting 
himself to the place to which he desired to go. He read a 
spell, and he was there! As a bird flies whither it wills, 
so he went whither he wished to Shuster, to Amarah, 
or elsewhere. Once he came thus with his wife from 
Mendeli to Shuster. God had taught him the spell which 
enabled him to travel so quickly, like darawtsJi who fly in 

The 'Fire-Worshipper and Adam bul Faraj 293 

an instant where they would be. In a single day they went, 
and arrived at Shuster at the time of evening prayer. Both 
of them wore white clothing like dardwlsh^ for they had 
put on the rasta (see Chapter III). The Subba in Shuster 
beheld them and asked them, 'Whence come ye ?' 

Adam bul Faraj did not answer, 'I am a risk *amma and 
came in such-and-such a manner/ but held his peace. 
The old men amongst the Subba came and asked him, 
'From whence come ye ? What is your trade ?' 

Adam bul Faraj replied, 'I am a darwlsh? 

Said they, 'Darwtsh ! But what is your trade ?' 

Answered he, 'I am your shepherd.' 

They thought that he must mean a shepherd of sheep, 
whereas he meant shepherd of souls. 1 

They said to him, 'We have water-buffaloes, cattle, and 
sheep! Take them into the desert and look after them. 
Why should you remain here idle ?' 

He answered, 'As you will!' and took the flocks and 
went out of the town. He traced a line round the flocks 
so that they could not stray, 2 and read a spell which 
summoned spirits to prevent the cattle from crossing 
outside the limit and to shepherd them. 

Then Adam bul Faraj sat in the midst of them. 

One day there came to him an old woman, who thought 
that he must be a darwtsh^ an enlightened one, a wise man. 
He looked at the old woman and saw that she was troubled 
and asked her, 'Why is thy throat constricted ? What is 
thy grief?' 

She answered, 'I wanted a Ginza Rabba from a tarmida 
(priest), but as I have no money, he will not write me one/ 
Now a person who possesses a Ginza Rabba, his name will 
remain in this world, and in the world to come the Ginza 
Rabba protects his soul from harm just as a tree spreads 
its branches to shelter his head from the sun. 

Replied Adam bul Faraj to the old woman, 'Bring 
paper and ink and I will write the Ginza Rabba for you 
and take no money for it.' 

He wrote the Ginza Rabba for her, and when he came 
to the tarikh2 he inscribed these words, 'O Nasurai, 

294 Legends, Magic, and T?olk-lore 

Mandai, and tarmidi\ I came amongst you. There will be 
tribulation amongst you and (when it occurs) come to me. 
I am in Mendeli.' 

Then he took his wife and returned to his place. 

After forty days there came to Shuster a wise man, 
deeply learned in magic, and he appeared to the Subba 
and said to them, 'What miracles can ye work ?' 

They asked him, 'What do you want of us, you ?' 

Now he was of the sect of fire-worshippers, 4 and he 
replied, 'If you cannot show me a miracle, I shall force 
you to be of my religion. I have a stick, and when I 
command it it is turned into a snake and bites whomsoever 
I will. I have a lion and at my command he eats whom- 
soever I will. I have, too, a mud wall (tof)> and when 
I bestride it, it will gallop like a mare. There is no escape 
for you ! You must come over to my faith, or the lion will 
eat you and the snake bite you, one by one, and cause you 
to die!* Then he showed them yet another miracle; a 
carpet, which, if spread on the water, did not sink, but 
allowed him to sit on it as if it were a ship. 

They were all very frightened. . . . They consulted 
together and looked in the Diwans, 5 in the Asfar Mal- 
washa, and in all the books which they possessed, but saw 
no means of escape. They despaired. Then came the old 
woman, who said to them, 'The dartmsji who was here 
made me a Ginza. Perhaps there is something in it which 
may help us.' 

She brought it, and they read the inscription, 'I am 
Adam bul Faraj. I came amongst you, and you made me 
a shepherd of sheep. If there is tribulation amongst you, 
come to see me at Mendeli.' 

Then they went to the fire-worshipper and begged for 
a respite of forty days, and four of the Mandai, two of 
whom were wise men, set off, riding on mares, to Mendeli, 
for in those days there were no trains, no motorcardt. 
They were thirty-eight days on the journey and arrived 
in Mendeli and went to Adam bul Faraj 's house, and cried, 
'Dakhttl Your protection!' They told him all that had 

The "Fire-Worshipper and Adam bul Faraj 295 

Adam bul Faraj began to laugh and said, Tear not!' 
They answered him, 'But in two days' time the lion and 
the serpent will begin to devour our priests and our 
learned men! There is no time left to succour them!' 
And they wept, out of their alarm. 

He repeated, 'Fear not! I can go there quickly!' 
But they were not comforted, and said amongst them- 
selves 'How can he be there in two days!' 

He replied, 'Do not fear! We shall leave Mendeli to- 
morrow and shall be in Shuster by the evening.' 

Then they began to be heartened and to talk amongst 
each other, and to wonder, 'How shall this thing be?' 

The next day was the thirty-ninth day. Adam bul 
Faraj rose and said, 'Come! Let us go !' He led them to a 
pool by the river (i.e. mandi-pool, see p. 125) and said, 
'Come! make your ablutions!' 

They all put on their rastas^ and entered the water and 
prayed and made complete purification. Then he sat and 
said, ' Come ! ' One of the Mandai sat on his right shoulder, 
another on the left, and the two others sat, one on his right 
knee and the other on his left. Then he began to read 
(spells) but softly, so that they heard not what he said. 
Then he commanded them, 'Shut your eyes!' and they 
shut them. A light came upon them and took them off the 
ground, so high up into the air that the world was not 
visible. Adam bul Faraj said to them, 'Look not too 
much!' for the light was powerful, very powerful! It was 
the magnetism (maghnatisjif that was carrying them. At 
ten o'clock, and the time was the afternoon, they descended 
and saw the ground. Adam bul Faraj said, 'Open your 
eyes!' and they opened their eyes and lo! they were in 
their own country of Shuster. 

They cried, 'Sahib! Is this Shuster?' 

He said, 'Aye!' 

Said they, 'How can this be?' 

He replied, 'Have no fear, but return quickly to your 
own homes.' 

They said to him, 'We fear that this is a dream, the 
deception of sleep!' 

296 Legends, Magic, and 'Folk-lore 

He answered, 'This is not dream (teyf), it is truth, and 
you are indeed in your own place.' 

The four Mandaeans went to the old ganzowra and 
said to him, 'Adam bul Faraj has come!' 

Now the priests, acolytes, and the elders of the people 
were gathered together at the ganzibra's house, and the 
rest of the Mandaeans were hiding in their own houses 
and weeping because of that which was to happen on the 

The ganzibra asked, 'How did you come ?' 

The four answered, 'We came in four hours from 

Then all cried, 'We have escaped!' and the men began 
to smile, and the women and children to utter joy-cries. 
It was like a great feast! All rejoiced together and cried, 
'Where is he?' 

They replied, l Tibrakh\ He is praying in the garden!' 

All went to seek him, priests, smiths, women, and 
children, all ! 

The ganzowra and the priests and the shgandi went to 
kiss his hand, and cried, 'DakJulakh \ We knew you not ! 
We made you a shepherd of sheep and knew you not!' 

He replied, 'It matters not!' 

The fire-worshipper came in the morning. The 
Moslems, Persians, and Jews, men, women and children, 
all the people of Shuster, gathered together to see what the 
Subbi would do. The Subba, led by Adam bul Faraj, 
marched into the great plain outside Shuster and the 
onlookers formed a circle to see what would happen. 

The fire-worshipper came before them, and read (spells) 
upon his stick, and it became a serpent. He said to the 
serpent, 'Go! Bite that man, Adam bul Faraj!' 

Adam laughed and said to the serpent, 'Thou art a 
stick, by what power art thou a serpent ?' and it became a 
stick as before. 

The fire-worshipper read and read, but the stick re- 
mained lifeless. Then he said to the lion, 'Go, devour that 

Adam bul Faraj addressed the lion, saying, 'What is 

The Fire-Worshipper and Adam bul Faraj 297 

thy work, thou? Thou art a beast of the desert and hast 
no business here! Return to thy place!' And the lion 
took and fled to the desert. 

The fire-worshipper called after him, 'Lion, lion!' but 
he would not return. He went and disappeared from their 

Then Adam bul Faraj said, 'What other miracles hast 
thou ?' 

The fire-worshipper replied, 'I have yet another 
miracle!' and he got astride the mud wall, and it began to 
move and to gallop with him as if it were a mare. 

The people were frightened and began to run away, 
crying, 'The wall moves, it moves!' 

Adam bul Faraj cried, 'Stop !' and the mud wall stopped 
in its place. The fire-worshipper read and read, but it 
remained immovable and would not stir more. 

Adam bul Faraj said to him, 'Hast thou other miracles ?' 

The other said, 'Aye! I have a carpet which I spread 
on the water and ride thereon as if it were a ship.' 

Adam bul Faraj said, 'Perform this miracle and I will 

The fire-worshipper spread his carpet on the river and 
sat on it, and the people marvelled when they saw how it 
moved on the water and sank not. 

Adam bul Faraj had a spell by which he summoned 
Shelmay and Nedvay, 7 the spirits of the water. They 
came and were beside Adam bul Faraj, who said to them, 
'I wish that man to sink in the water, he and his carpet! 
Tease him, torture him a little! Let him experience 

The carpet sank beneath the water, then came again to 
the surface, and plunged beneath again, so that the fire- 
worshipper was half-drowned. He cried, 'Mercy! Loose 
me! Free me!' 

Adam bul Faraj said to him, 'Why did you torment 
these people ? Why did you frighten them and their women 
and children ? Do you not fear God that you acted thus, 
saying that your lion would devour them and your 
serpent bite them ?' 

4363 Q q 

298 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The other replied, 'I repent! Mercy! I will never do 
so again!' 

Adam bul Faraj took him from the water, and the fire- 
worshipper said to him, 'I wish to see your miracles!' 

Adam bul Faraj said to him, 'As you will ! I will show 
you something; but our miracles are not magic, for we 
worship God, and only what he permits will be!' 

Said the fire-worshipper, 'I should like to see something 
of your powers!' 

Now Adam bul Faraj had brought with him a tir khurr 
(a carrier pigeon, a breed with an enlarged beak-wattle). 
He said to this bird, 'There are no dates in Shuster. Bring 
me a date!' 

It went, and flew back with a date which Adam bul 
Faraj gave to the fire-worshipper, saying 'Eat it!' and the 
magician ate it. Adam bul Faraj took the date-stone from 
him, washed it in the river, and put it into the ground. 

Now there are spirits ('uthri) which dwell in the sun and 
these give growth, colour, and scent to flowers. The scent 
and colour of flowers are of the world of light and not of 
this world, and it is the ( uthri who bring them to the earth. 
Therefore, Adam bul Faraj asked the *uthri to give power 
to the date-stone so that it should become a date-palm, 
for he was in favour with God, and received the benefits 
of Heaven. 

As he spoke, it was, and the 'uthri caused the stone to 
germinate and sprout. It sprouted and grew, dt> dl, di> dl\ 
and it became a large date-palm. Then it bore blossom, 
which became fruit and reddened and ripened. In one 
hour it brought forth ripe fruit! The fire-worshipper 
marvelled and said, 'How can this be! A palm-tree so 

Adam bul Faraj said to him, 'Go up and eat the ripe 

The fire-worshipper climbed and saw that the fruit was 
ripe: the dates were perfectly formed and ready to eat, 
and he ate of them. 

Now the winds are moved by 'uthri who stir the air. 8 
Adam bul Faraj called them and said to them, 'Let the 

The 'Fire-Worshipper and Adam bul Faraj 299 

Winds be summoned North Wind, South Wind, East 
Wind and West Wind ! Let them blow (tehabft) and use 
their strength!' 

Then the winds began to blow and the palm swayed in 
the air this way and that, so that it beat the ground from 
side to side, and struck the fire-worshipper, who began to 
cry, 'DakMl '! I have repented and will work no more 
harm! I will leave your people to follow their religion in 
peace! I will never hurt them more! Dakhtl y dakjnlV 

Adam bul Faraj said to him, 'All religions, Mandai, 
Jewish, Moslem, and Christian, were created by God. 9 
God created them and desired them, and you should not 
have sought to harm them. God created them thus and 
ordered them thus !' He permitted the winds to cease and 
the fire-worshipper descended. Then Adam bul Faraj 
asked him, 'From whence .was your power? By whose 
might did you cause sticks to become serpents, and lions 
to obey you, the wall to move beneath you and the carpet 
to bear you on the water ?' 

The fire-worshipper answered, 'My strength is from 
Qartus Deywa!' 10 

And he was repentant and escaped. 

Thus the Subba learnt the name of Qartus Deywa. 
And if the jdnn have breathed into such a one, and his 
spirit is clouded, they say into his ear, 'O Qartus Deywa! 
Cure this man! Open!' And he is cured. A big prince 
of thejann is Qartus Deywa, and from that time the Subba 
know his name and can use it. As for the fire-worshipper, 
he returned to his place. 


1 . The simile is a favourite one. In the Drasha d Yahya 'I am a shepherd 
and love my sheep' refers to Manda d Hiia. Lidzbarski comments, 'the 
term is applied to various pagan deities, notably Hermes'. (JB., p. 43.) The 
term is still older, it is used of Enlil in the Ritual of Kalu he is called a 
'faithful shepherd'. 

2. Hirmiz interjected here, 'Aye, and I have seen the like myself! I saw 
Shaikh ash-Shuban read over a serpent and trace a circle about it, and the 
serpent was unable to cross the line or issue from the circle !' 

3. At the end of every Mandaean manuscript is the name of the person 

300 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

who copied it, with his genealogy, and the genealogy of the person who 
copied the copy from which the writer copied it, and so on; also the year 
in which the manuscript was completed, and sometimes descriptions of 
public events which happened in that year. This is called the tdnkh. 

4. Ftre-worsktppers. These are called Tazuqana in Mandaean writings. 
While there are a few hostile references to these, and polemic references to 
worship of fire, there is no attack upon Zoroaster. 

5. See Chapter II. Scrolls as compared to codices. 

6. This is typical of Hirmiz. It has occurred to me that a contributory 
reason why iron is considered potent against evil spirits is because it is 
easily magnetized. Lodestones and the powers of magnets have been 
known in Asia from early times. 

7. Shilmai and Nidbai, the guardian spirits of the yardna, or running 
water. References to them are numerous in ritual and scriptures. 

8. See pp. 94 iF. The *uthria are pre-eminently life-spirits. The 
*uthria who 'stir the air', according to Hirmiz, are Ayar Ziwa (p. 58) 
and Ayar Saghia (Radiant Air and Plentiful Air). 

9. This was one of the first tales I collected. The term Allah was used 
for God. 

10. ^.ll^j 'a sheet of paper'; ^Ji a scroll of parchment. Qartus is 

a personified writing, or spell. Cf. Disai in the Ginza Rba (6th bk., rt. 
side, the book of Dinanukht), in which Disai is half-demon, half-book. 
Qurtasah is a favourite name with Mandaean women. 


Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 

The story, which is reminiscent of the contest between the Egyptian 
sorcerers and Moses, has been related to me by other Subba. Petermann 
gives an imperfect version (Reisen, pp. 1 1 114). 

Hirmiz, commenting on the story, remarked, 'Adam bul Faraj was a 
Nasurai and used to converse with the *utkri in the sun. Who seeks for 
knowledge, it will seek him, and he also may become a Nasurai.' 


ONCE on a time there was only one religion in the world. 
All the children of Adam were Mandai. Of these, there 
were twenty-four ( u!ema\ twenty-four learned men, but 
one wise man, whose name was Dana Nuk, who was 
greater than them all. 

They came to him for advice, and he had all the sacred 

How Dana Nuk visited the Seventh Heaven 301 

books which Hiwel Ziwa gave to Adam, and knew them 
by heart, no doubt. Among these books were the Ginza 
Rabba, the Sidra d Nishmatha, the Drasha d Yahia, the 
Asfar Malwasha, the Diwan Haran Gawaitha, the Diwan 
Awathur, the Alf Trisar Shiala, the Diwan Malkutha 
Ileytha, the Qulasta, and the Iniani d Rahmi. 

The twenty-four learned men had various forms of 
knowledge, one had knowledge of Shamish, one knowledge 
of Water, one of Bel, one of Nirigh, and so forth, but the 
great one, Dana Nuk, he had knowledge of them all. 
Each planet had especial power over its votaries and those 
who loved and served it, but Dana Nuk, he had knowledge 
of them all. 

He had a room in his house in which he kept the writ- 
ings which Hiwel Ziwa gave to Adam, and they were piled 
one upon the other. He always kept this room locked. 
One day, when he entered this room, he found a book 
placed above the others. It was in Mandai, but treated of 
another tariqah the Way of Sen. (Sin, the Moon-God.) 

He said 'No one could have entered this room to which 
I alone have the key! I will burn this book!' And he 
burnt it. 

Then he went out into the wilderness and sitting there 
under a tree, he began to think, 'How could that book 
have got into my room ?' 

Then, suddenly, he saw the book before him ! 

He took it : he tore it into pieces and threw the shreds 
into the river. He returned to his house, unlocked the 
door of the room and went in, and he saw the book lying 
above the other books as before. 

He said to himself, 'How can such a thing be ?' and was 
puzzled. He talked the matter over with the Nasurai, 
saying, 'What can the meaning of this be? The book 
appears above the Ginza Rabba ! Perhaps, if we were to 
read it, we might learn something, but it treats of another 

They replied, 'As it lies above the other sacred writings, 
it must be right. The planets have ordered this thing ! It 
must be lawful!' 

302 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

Dana Nuk went back to sleep, and when he awoke, the 
book was beneath his head ! 

He went to the Nasurai and said to them, 'I destroyed 
this book twice, but here it is ! I found it below my head 
when I rose from sleep.' 

Some of them said, 'This must be from God. The book 
must be read!' 

They took the book and read it, and some of them 
accepted its Way, they and their women, and delighted in 
it. From thenceforth, they and their children worshipped 
the light of the Moon. And there are still those who wor- 
ship the Moon, and the secrets of the Jews and their magic 
are of the Moon, and were learnt from that book. Yes, 
they and their children adored the Moon ! 

After three weeks another book appeared in Dana Nuk's 
room above the other books, and this, too, he gave to the 
Nasurai. It contained the Way of Kiwan, and some of the 
Nasurai and their relatives with them, adopted that Way. 
In this manner came five more books, so that there were 
seven in all, and each contained a different Way. Some of 
the Nasurai followed one, and some another. At last, a 
book appeared above the others which radiated light as it 
lay there. The heart of Dana Nuk went out to that book, 
and he read it and believed what was written in it, and saw 
that it contained the perfection of the knowledge of God. 
When he read it, his spirit was glad, and all fear left him. 
God gave him and all who read in it power. So he took 
this one for his Way. 

It happened, after that, that he was in his garden, 
praying, when he saw a being of light descending from 
Awathur (Abathur, see p. 95) and it stopped before him. 
He prostrated himself before the being who said to him : 

'Those who have taken the other books, their souls will 
remain bound to the earth when resurrection comes (lamma 
taqum ad-dunya) and they will not rise, or know the way 
to Awathur. But you will rise, because your book is of 
Shamish, and Shamish is of God only, and there is no evil 
influence with him. Those who read that book will under- 
stand [all things]. Have you read it to others ?' 

How Dana Nuk visited the Seventh Heaven 303 

Dana Nuk replied, 'Only my family and I have read it.' 

Then the being said, 'I must take your soul to the 
World of Light, so that you may understand the truth of 
matters, and then return to this world to tell others of what 
you have seen.' 

He conducted the sage to a place where there was a 
chamber built amongst trees, amidst cultivation, and left 
him there, saying 'Sleep!' Dana Nuk slept gladly, for he 
wished to see the World of Light. 

The being gave him a form of air, of his own shape, and 
Dana Nuk's soul entered into it. But he was not visible 
to the sons of Adam. His body was sleeping and his 
pulses beating, but his soul was away. 

The being took him to Pthahil, and Pthahil rose before 
him, saying, 'Rejoice that thou hast come to this place!' 
And he told the *uthri and melki to guide him and show 
him the underworlds with their demons and the places of 
purification in Mataratha. Next, the melki took him to 
the abode of Sera 1 (Sira, the moon), and that of Liwet 
(Venus), for their places are beautiful. Next they went to 
the place which God gave to Ruha, a place which is of God 
and of great loveliness. Then they took him to Shamish, 
a place all of light, in the World of Light, and of a radiance 
past description. Then they bore him upwards up, up, 
up ! until he reached Paradise, 2 the place of God, and that 
was yet lovelier than all he had seen hitherto. Dana Nuk 
cried to them, 'I want to stay in this place and never leave 
it!' But they took him higher yet, to the place where the 
Four Great Ones abide, and their names are Arham Haiy, 
En Haiy, Shorn Haiy, and Ziwa Haiy.3 When he saw 
them in their beauty he cried to Hiwel Ziwa, for it was 
Hiwel Ziwa who had appeared to him in the garden, 'I 
cannot go farther! Let me rest here!' 

Hiwel Ziwa said, 'No, you must go yet farther!' 

They rose and they came to the place of Melka dAnhura, 
and that was vast, and all of light. There were four suns, 
always stationary and not turning like our sun, and their 
power is of Melka Ziwa. It is a place of wonder and power. 

But Hiwel Ziwa took him up yet higher, and they came 

304 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

to another heaven, also lit with four suns, but yet greater 
and more brilliant. Dana Nuk asked, 'Of whom is this ?' 
Hiwel Ziwa answered, 'This is my place ^shkhinta y in 
Mandaean). But we must go yet higher.' 

They continued their way upwards and they came to a 
place full of 'utkri, where there was a sea of light. Its 
waters were of light only, and about it were melki, male 
and female, adoring God. Dana Nuk said to Hiwel Ziwa, 
'I see no babies in this world of light, where are they?' 

He replied, 'Within the womb of that sea, the yardna 
of light, they grow, and when they are ready to pray, they 
issue from its waters, for we are not like you in the matter 
of our reproduction. Our seed is in the waters of the ocean 
of Light. They eat of the trees of Paradise,^ and there is no 
corruption or waste (tilf) from what they eat. All is power 
and light.' 

When Dana Nuk had seen this heaven of heavens, he 
cried to Hiwel Ziwa, 'I will not go from hence ! Leave me 

Hiwel Ziwa said to him, 'Did I not say that you must 
return to tell men what you have seen, so that they will 
know the Way and believe and not deny ?' 

So Dana Nuk returned, but he wept. 5 The other said 
to him, 'You shall return here one day, but now your 
place is in the world.' 

Now his journey had taken fourteen years, and his body 
had remained in the same place, and no one had touched it, 
for Hiwel Ziwa had protected it and neither animal nor 
man could approach it. 

He descended into his body on Sunday. 

Now the Nasurai and learned men had foreseen his 
return in a dream, and when each person rose in the 
morning and told his dream to his fellows, women as well 
as men, all said, 'It cannot be deception! He must return 

His soul returned into Dana Nuk's body, and he sat up 
and kissed Hiwel Ziwa's hand, saying, 'Ask Shamish, 
Liwet, and Nirigh to look after me and protect me ask 
all those who have an ark (fulK) (i.e. the planets).' 

How Dana Nuk visited the Seventh Heaven 305 

Hiwel Ziwa replied, 'If I tell Shamish, he will order 
that all of them protect you, for they are all obedient to 
him. Shamish himself will watch over you and protect 
you. He will say, "My eye will be always upon him", and 
not one of them, the Moon, or Venus, nor any of them, 
will be able to harm you, but will take care of you.' 

So Hiwel Ziwa departed from Dana Nuk and he wept. 

The people had assembled to come and find him, and 
they approached softly to see whether he were living or not. 
A woman came first, and peeped through an aperture in 
the wall. She saw him weeping, and cried, 'Come, come! 
He is alive!' 

His wife came running, for she had not spoken with 
him for fourteen years! She came to him, and when he 
saw her, he stopped weeping and began to talk to her and 
to all of them, speaking of what he had seen. 

His name was Dana Nuk. At one time the Sikhs 6 
began to worship him, but he said to them, 'Do not wor- 
ship my image, worship God!' 

They replied, 'We will worship Baba Nanak Allah!' 

As for the people of Ramram, 7 they have an idol which 
they made in the form of him who died and returned. 


r. Sira and Sin are names for the moon. 

2. Paradise, i.e. the Mandaean 'world of light'. 

3. The Ginza gives these as In-Hiia (Source of Life), Shum Hiia 
(Name of Life), Ziwa Hiia (Radiance of Life), and Nhur Hiia (Light of 
Life). These are sometimes called the 'melki of the North Star'. 

4. Hirmiz explained here that the trees were piria, fruit-trees, and that 
the water of Paradise was personified as Melka Piriawis. 'If a mortal soul 
drinks of this heavenly water, it cannot see death. A little of this heavenly 
yardna is in all earthly yardnas." 1 I inquired if there were animals in the 
abode of light. He replied, 'Animals are of Pthahil. A man of knowledge 
does not wish to take life, so does not use them. He only eats vegetables: 
fruit, and roots. Eggs matter not, but he will not eat fish or meat, nor 
wishes to do so. But flowers are of Paradise 'and their scent is of Paradise. 
That is why when we smell razqf (a large jasmine) 'otjur? (the scented 
pink rose), 'we say, "Perfume of Life is lovely, my lord Manda-t-Haiy" ' 
(Rika dhiia basim marai Manda d Hiia}. 

4363 R r 

306 Legends, Magic, and oik-lore 

5. The Ginza is full of fragments in which the soul laments its imprison- 
ment in the body, or expresses its joy at being released, e.g. 

'Arise, arise, Soul 

Rise to thy first home 

To the soil from which thou wast transplanted.' 

or, 'Then the Father of the *uthras arose 
He got up and went to the Hidden Place 
He fetched the Mana 

So that it should irradiate all corruptible things, 
So that it should illuminate the body-garment . . .' . 

or, 'Thou Pearl fetched from the Treasure of Life' 

or, 'I am a Mana of the Mighty Life! 

Who has thrown me into this sorrowful world? 
Who fetched me from my treasure-house ?' 

The 9th fragment, (i 5th book, Ginza 1.) calls the soul, 'the sweet perfume 
of the *uthr? and contains its lament that it must descend into the body. 

6. The reference to Baba Nanak is suggestive and curious. GuruNanak,or 
Baba Nanak, religious leader of the Sikh sect, visited Baghdad, if the accounts 
of his life are to be trusted, at the beginning of the sixteenth century A.D. 
A tablet in the shrine of Bahlul, just outside Baghdad, sets forth that one 
Murad (I quote from Sewaram Singh's book, The Divine Master) rebuilt 
the demolished building of Hazrat Rab-i-Majid, Baba Nanak, Faqlr Aulia', 
and the date is 9 1 7 of the Hijra. Reference was made by a Swaml Ananda 
Charaya in a book called The Snow Birds to another inscription translated 
thus by him: 'Here spake the Hindu Nanak to Faqir Bahlol; and for these 
sixty winters, since the Guru left Iran, the soul of Bahlol has rested on the 
master's word, like a bee poised on a dawn-lit honey-rose.' According to 
the Swami, this tablet was dated 912 of the Hijra. It seems unlikely that 
there should have been two tablets so differing in matter within five 

The chamber of the tomb in which the present inscription is found is 
ruined, and full of 'wish-houses', i.e. bricks roughly placed together like a 
child's brick-house, to commemorate vows made by Moslem pilgrims, 
nearly always women, to the shrine. Moslems believe that the Bahlul who is 
buried in this shrine was thefafir and Sufi mystic Bahlul of the reign of 
Harun-ar-Rashid, who, of course, was buried hundreds of years before 
Nanak was born. But there is a definite tradition that Nanak did meet and 
have a friendship with a certain Faqir Bahlul in Baghdad when he visited 
that town. It is possible that the tomb is that of a later Bahlul, just as the 
tomb of the so-called 'Prophet Joshua' close by is the tomb of a Jewish 
rabbi of late date identified in vulgar belief with Joshua son of Nun. 

Perhaps Baba Nanak came into touch with local schools of Sufi thought 
in Baghdad ; indeed several traditions about his life favour this supposition. 
Secret cults inherited from pre-Islamic times lingered on in the form of 
secret orders of darawlsji until very late into the Middle Ages, and indeed 

How Dana Nuk visited the Seventh Heaven 307 

traces of these linger in such a cult as that of the Bahal which in its 
present form is of very recent origin. 

According to Sir Lepel Griffin, the old Sikh faith had a baptismal 
ceremony, and, like Mandaeans, Sikhs do not cut hair or beard. I have 
already pointed out the significance of the latter and the inference is that 
there is a connexion with a light-cult wherever this taboo is found. Such 
likenesses were quite enough to cause the Mandaeans who came into 
contact with Sikhs during the war to descry connexion between their 
faith and that of the Sikhs. 

The story of Dana Nuk, or Noh, does, in fact, resemble a legend about 
Baba Nanak. The story of the latter is that in the year 1479, going out one 
morning 'as usual before dawn to the B'een for his morning ablutions' (cf. 
Mandaean riskama), he plunged into the water and disappeared. He was 
mourned as dead, but his sister did not believe it, and sent his servant with 
his clothes to wait by the water. Meantime, Baba Nanak is said to have 
performed a journey to the celestial regions where he talked with the 
Almighty and received a goblet full of an elixir which he drank and 
thereupon entered into the perfection of divine knowledge. ('He fed me 
with the Nectar of the Name of the Great Truth.') He then reappeared 
on earth after three days' absence, resumed his clothes and founded 
a brotherhood. 

7. The people of Ramram, i.e. probably the bhakti Hindus of N. and 
Central India. Mandaeans are fond of tracing connexions between their 
beliefs and those of sects and groups in India. 


Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 

This legend, or part of it, appears in the 6th book, GR., rt. Siouffi has a 
version in which the hero is called Dananoukh. The story was also told me 
by a priest in Amarah, who rendered the name Dana Noh, thus confirming 
Lidzbarski's conjecture below. 

Lidzbarski attributes antiquity to the story and says, 'Die Erzahlung 
weist altertiimliche Ziige auf. Der weise Schriftgelehrte Dinanukht 
erinnert an ... "den weisen Schriftgelehrten Nbu" in der aramaischen 
Inschrift aus Kappadocien Ephemeris, I, p. 325, wo man den Anfang so zu 
lesen hat . . . und hier . . . bei dem zwischen den Wassern sitzenden 
Weisen denkt man an den an der Miindung der Strome sitzenden hoch- 
weisen babylonischen Sintfluthelden Ut-Napishtim, um so mehr als Dina- 
nukht's Gattin Nuraita denselben Namen fuhrt wie die Gattin Noahs. . . . 
Auch die Sprache weist alte Wendungen auf.' 

The priestly narrator's version was curious: 'Ruha d Qudsha disguised 
herself and came to Dana Nuh and said 'I am Hiwel Ziwa', and gave him 
a little book which said 'Do not wear a kli],a of myrtle, wear a klila of iron !' 
and changed other things in our faith. At first Dana Nuh burnt it, but it 
reappeared to him. He tore it up, but it reappeared; lastly, he threw it into 
theyardna, yet still it returned to him. So he thought it must be from Hiwel 

308 Legends, Magic, and 'Folk-lore 

Ziwa. Then he and his people followed the teaching of that book, and 
Awathur Rama and Awathur Muzania began to complain that no souls 
reached them. Then a 'aa/njDen ad Mulaikh, was sent to Dana Nuh, and 
he fell into a trance. His r^7enTa1riFd1n1irrt'hroat, but his nisjnmta went 
out and Den ad Mulaikh put it into another body. He took him down to 
Siniawis, and showed him the melki of darkness, and then the world of 
light. There the ground was like crystal, and there was no darkness there, 
nor dust. They showed him thrones inscribed with the names of the 
Mandai, but they were empty, for the souls of the dead Mandai who had 
followed the teaching of the book were enduring seven purifications. Then 
Dana Nuh returned to his body and told his people what he had witnessed, 
and they returned to the faith.' 

A similar story is told in the late Sasanian book Ardvitaz-namak of 
the Zoroastrian priest, Tansar. (See Herzfeld's Archaeological History of 
Iran, p. 100.) 


AT the end of the world the King of Darkness will be 
strong, and there will be great wars. The world will be all 
but destroyed by something which puts death into the air 
and into the water people will breathe and drink and will 
die. Then seven great rulers will meet together in one 
place and will say to each other, 'Why fight any longer? Why 
should all human beings die ?' and they will make a solemn 
pact to share all knowledge and secrets with each other. 

When they are gathered together in conclave, a spirit 
will descend and talk to one of them. He will not see it, 
but the others will gaze at it and perceive it, and say to 
that one, 'What did the spirit tell you ?' He will answer, 
'There was no spirit! I talked to no one.' 

They will say, 'Tell us what the spirit said, or die!' 

He will affirm, 'There was no spirit I heard and saw 
nothing!' Then they will kill him. 

After that, the spirit will come to another of them, and 
he too will deny that he has spoken with him or seen him 
(and be speaking truth, though they will not believe him). 
Him also the others will kill. ~So it will happen until six 
have been slain and only one remains. He will be wise 
with secret 'knowledge from Shamish, and will rule over 
all in peace. There will be but one religion in all the 
world, and all will live in concord and happiness.' 

The Millennium 309 


Narrator. Hirmiz bar Anhar. 

A prophecy is given in the 1 8th book, Ginza Rba, rt., in which it is fore- 
told that 'a golden mountain will lift itself up in Dasht-Misaq' and that 
seven kings will gather together upon it. The kings will name a king of 
kings, and say to him 'We wish to hold a conference to ensure that the 
great shall not receive more honour than the slave !' 

After an agreement upon what appears to be a kind of communism, a 
spirit comes down and whispers to the king of kings, who sees him not, 
though all the people see him. 'Then say they to the king of kings, "What 
did this being who descended from the firmament and whispered in thine 
ear say to thee?" Then he says to them, "Ye lie !" Then the kings say to 
the king of kings, "Then the pact by which we are gathered together is 
also a lie!" And the kings say to the king of kings, "Up! We wish to 
see each other face to face !"' 

They begin to fight. 'Then comes that king who loosens his horse and 
it steps over them up to the saddle in blood.' From here on the text is 
fragmentary and obscure, but the king who brings in the time of peace and 
prosperity is named Mzarz (Armed). The 'last king to reign' will be 
Parashai Sifa, son of the king Burzan or Burzin. 'In the years of that king 
prosperity and justice will prevail. There will be no winter.' 



THE Mandai of Shuster liked to have their people about 
them no matter where they were. They were fond of the 
people of their race. One day, a darwtsJi of the Sunset 
country (a Moor) came to Shuster, and they asked him, 
'Are there Mandai in your country? Are there people 
like us who read ?' (i.e. prayers and incantations). The 
darwlsh replied, 'There is another darwlsh with me who 
may know. He is a very old man', and he spoke to the 
ganzowra saying, 'For your sake, I will bring him here'. 
He went away, and returned with that other. When he 
came back to the Mandai with the second darwtsh, they 
noticed that half of him (i.e. the first darwishT) was white 
and half was black ; half his forehead, half his head, half 
was white, and the other half black exactly the half! 

3io Le 'gends, Magic ', and Folk-lore 

The old darwish_ came and stood before the ganzowra 
and said, 'Now my heart is glad!' 

The ganzowra asked, 'How so ?' 

He replied, 'You are of the Mandai, and I have seen 
your people.' He had recognized the Mandai by their 
dress, by their rasta, and by the himiana (sacred girdle), 
for he had seen Mandai and Nasurai on the Jebel Mandai 
(Mountain of the Mandai). 

The ganzowra asked him, 'And how did you see them ?' 

The old darwtsh told them that he had been an astro- 
loger with the army of the Turks, led by a minister of the 
Sultan. The soldiers were many and marched with cannon 
and gunpowder. Their orders were to go to the Jebel 
Mandai and to issue an iradah ordering the Mandai to 
become subjects of the Turks. If the Mandai refused, 
then they were, by the order of the Sultan, to fire upon the 
mountain. The Wazlr, their leader, counselled the Sultan 
to permit peaceful methods to be used first, and to send 
an embassy to talk with them, or with one of their leading 
men. He said to the Sultan, 'It is more prudent to use 
such methods until we know their strength'. 

Accordingly, when they had reached the mountain, he 
sent an envoy, a man of understanding, to talk with the 
rish_ *amma, the day being Sunday. He went to him and 
wished him peace. They sat, and the envoy said, 'An 
order has come from the Sultan that you and your people 
must become his subjects and give him and his govern- 
ment fealty.' 

The ris]i 'amma replied, 'We do not obey a Sultan. We 
give our obedience to God, and we cannot obey the will of 
any man, or be under his hand.' 

The envoy said, 'If you do not accept, we shall fire our 
cannon upon you and kill you !' 

The rish. 'amma replied, 'Let your cannon be fired ! We 
shall overthrow you, but not in battle. The Sultan has 
soldiers and cannon and we have nothing no cannon and 
no firearms. 1 Nevertheless, we shall do his army an injury. 
It will be better for your commander to withdraw so that 
his troops may not perish.' 

The Mountain of the Maddal 3 1 1 

The envoy returned to the commander, saying, 'He 
speaks thus and thus.' The commander wondered, and 
said, 'What could it be that could kill us without battle?' 

Now the ganzowra had a daughter, and he had built a 
sanctuary, a secret place of worship, on the mountain. 
Thither he was wont to go and take the girl, for he had 
knowledge of Liwet (Dilbat, Venus), who is a female 
melka, and inhabits the star Liwet. She is so lovely to 
look upon that if a man sees her he swoons away. She 
wears a diadem of great beauty on her brow, and a wonder- 
ful perfume issues from it, so exquisite that he who smells 
it loses his senses and becomes unconscious. The diadem 
is of lights, which play and dazzle. There are wise men 
who see her, and there are places where they make her a 
sanctuary, bringing a beautiful girl or a handsome boy 
to it and placing him or her therein. Then they read 
secret incantations, and she (Venus) descends into the 
girl or boy and answers the questions which are put to her. 
Much knowledge is to be learnt from her. 2 

The ganzowra used to take his daughter into this secret 
sanctuary and Liwet used to descend into her. Her father 
used to put a glass bowl filled with water before the girl 
and say to her, 'Gaze into it!' Then he began to read 
incantations, read, read, read, until the glass became red, 
became white, became green, became blue, di^ di^ di, di\ 
until the glass became like a globe of light. At that 
moment, a sweet and pleasant wind breathed upon the 
girl and she slept, and Liwet entered into her thoughts 
and spoke through her mouth. The ganzowra arose and 
spoke to her (Liwet) thus: 'Of thy favour, help us! The 
soldiers of the Turks have come against us to do us an 
injury, and thou knowest we have done them no harm!' 

Liwet replied, 'I will cause them to perish! (ashathum) 
They cannot harm you while We are in the world.' 

The ganzowra said to her, 'Of thy favour, what can we 
do against them ?' 

Answered Liwet, 'I can do that which will prevent them 
from seeing. It will become black before them and they 
will be unable to see.' 

312 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The ganzowra said, 'That will injure them! They are 
poor soldiers, poor men, and I do not wish to hurt them.' 
For the Nasurai are kindly people and do not injure any 
person willingly. And he asked her, 'Canst thou not do 
something else?' 

She replied, 'I can make water appear all round them 
so that they are unable to move.' 

Said the ganzowra, 'If they are surrounded by water they 
will be unable to reach food, and will be imprisoned there, and 
suffer. I ask rather that they should be inspired with fright. ' 

Liwet replied, 'To cause fright is the function of (lit. 
in the hand of) Pthahil 3 and the sjuviahi, for the King of 
Darkness and the shiviahi are under the hand of Pthahil. 
Read in this scroll, and Pthahil will send a spirit to do your 

Sunday came, and the ganzowra went and was baptized 
in the water, prayed, and took his scroll and went to his 
chapel and began to read there. He read and read and 
read, and there came before him something like fire. He 
recoiled from it, but it said to him, 'Shloma illakh, ya 
ganzowra! Shloma ad haiy havilakJi (Peace upon you, O 
ganzibra \ The peace of the Life be yours !). 

The ganzowra said to it, 'These Turks have come to do 
us an injury. I ask from you and from Pthahil that you 
will give them a fright only ! so that they may 
depart unhurt to their own country.' 

The melka of the shiviahi replied, 'I can bring you a 
shiviahi for each soldier of the Turkish army, to stand 
beside him. When the soldiers try to fire their cannon or 
shoot, they will be pushed back and their hands be power- 
less, and they will not know the reason.' 

The ganzowra said, 'That is a good way of frightening 
them!' (Khosh takhwtf, hadha !) 

The melka assembled the shiviahi and one took place 
beside each Turkish soldier. But the leader of the shiviahi 
sat beside the ganzowra on the mountain. 

Now the general of the Turks cried, 'Talla \ To battle! 
Fire bullets at them ! Kill them ! They will not obey the 
Sultan's irddah, so they must die!' 

The Mountain of the Maddal 313 

But, when he began to shoot, each man felt a violent 
gust which hurled him to the ground. One broke his 
head, another his arm. They cried, 'What is this?' and 
were greatly afraid and their officers and generals with 
them. The leader said to his adviser, the envoy that he 
had sent to parley with the Mandai, 'What can it be that 
makes the soldiers fall to the ground?' for on all sides 
they were falling. 

The other replied, 'These people are darawishl They 
are worthy people who serve God. No one should seek to 
hurt them. If we try to do so, so great are the powers 
which they receive from God, that we shall all be killed.' 

The general said, 'We will return to the Sultan and 
bring reinforcements and hear what he says to all this.' 
For in those days, if the Sultan needed soldiers, he forced 
men into the army. 

The melka of the shiviahi that stood beside the ganzowra 
heard what was said and began to laugh aloud. 

Said the ganzowra, 'Why do you laugh ?' 

The melka said, 'I laugh at the intelligence of those 
Turks ! It is Pthahil who gives you power, whereas theirs 
is of men! What vanity they talk!' Then he said, 'I will 
show you something amusing.' 

Said the ganzowra^ 'Good!' 

The other said, 'To-morrow they will begin to march 
in retreat, but I can do that which will prevent them from 
going forward, all of them, leaders and soldiers.' 

The ganzowra smiled and said, 'I should like to see 
that work!' 

In the morning, the army tried to march. The ruler 
of the shiviahi was with the ganzowra watching them from 
afar on the mountain. The ganzowra gazed. The melka 
began to make incantations, softly, softly. The ganzowra 
saw a light flash down from heaven, as if by electricity. It 
came from above. Dl\ It became intense, and spread out 
with the air (imtadd bil hawa) upon the soldiers and those 
with them. The soldiers of the Turks, the more they tried 
to march, the less they were able to move a step forward 
but were forced instead to step backwards. What was it ? 

4363 S S 

314 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The general shouted 'Run!' but they could not, and he 
himself was in like case, and could not move forwards. 
The officers said to the general, 'Baba, we are going to 
die ! What can we do ? This comes of trying to fight with 
the Mandai and the Nasurai, who are like daraimsh and 
fear God. Why did we besiege these people ?' 

Now, with the general there were astrologers, who 
counted the stars and read destiny. One of them had a 
bowl which resembled a mirror in which you see your 
face. It was very ancient and had been dug up out of the 
earth. It was inscribed with powerful names, and when 
this astrologer gazed into it, he saw all that he desired to 
see. He fetched it and looked into it to see the course of 
these events. But he consulted it secretly, for the general 
and the other astrologers did not know that he possessed 
such a bowl. 4 He gazed in it, and saw the ganzowra and 
the melka of the shiviahi, he who had brought about their 
discomfiture, and they were both sitting on the mountain. 
At the same time, the spirit perceived that the astrologer 
was scrying in his bowl, and told the ganzowra, saying, 
'This astrologer has a bowl with Mandaean talismans and 
writings upon it. It was made by your people of old/ 

The ganzowra said to him, 'Bring it to me, for it must 
belong to us and not to the Turks.' 

The astrologer was still scrying into the bowl, and, even 
as he gazed, something came upon him, lifted the bowl up, 
and it completely disappeared. 

He began to scream and the others came running to 
him and the officers. The astrologer said, 'I had something 
before me, an ancient object, and it was taken away from 
before me, and I know not what it was that seized it!' 

He wailed and wept, and the soldiers and their officers 
said, 'How could this have happened?' 

Day and night he continued to weep, and the ganzowra 
began to pity him, for the bowl was priceless. So he said 
to the spirit, 'Bid the astrologer come hither, and let the 
soldiers depart, each to his own people, for they must not 
remain imprisoned here.' 

When the owner of the bowl had come, he fell upon his 

The Mountain of the Maddai 3 1 5 

hands and knees, for he perceived that a light was with the 
ganzowra^ a light which sometimes took the shape of a 
face or a person. His heart was afraid. The ganzowra 
said, Tear not! He who is with me is a melka of the 
shiviahi.' Then he said to him, 'Whence had you this 
bowl? It is ours, and our inscriptions are within it.' 

The astrologer replied, 'That bowl that you see is from 
the Jebel Qordun, which the Arabs call Qaf, the mountains 
which surround the earth, and these are in the North.' 

The ganzowra said, 'And how did those who brought 
it to you obtain it ?' 

The astrologer answered, 'In those mountains there is 
a place that is inaccessible, and surrounded thickly by 
swamps, reeds, trees, and wild beasts of all kinds lions, 
wolves, large snakes, and other harmful animals abound 
there. My father, once a rich man, became very poor and 
he sought this place of fear, saying, "Let a lion or other 
wild beast devour me I care not, now I am so poor!"' 
He continued, 'He had an ass : he rode upon it and went 
into the wilderness. The ass carried him near that place, 
and there he saw something which caused him the utmost 
fright. For he saw a huge serpent coiled about a slab of 
black marble, its head upreared, and its eyes like fire. In 
the middle of the slab was a lion in an attitude of threat, 
and by the lion's feet a large scorpion, and above it, a 
hornet bigger than a bird.' 

The ganzowra laughed when he heard this, for the 
astrologer's father had not seen real animals and beasts, 
but a skandola (pp. 36 ff.), a group of talismanic symbols. 
The serpent with upreared head represents ? Ur, the great 
dragon upon whom the visible world rests, with his head 
uplifted towards Awathur, and his glittering eyes were of 
diamonds. This talisman (resed), these symbols, had been 
made by Mandai, and placed there to protect treasure 
beneath from shiviahi and other disturbers. So strong was 
this talisman, that none could approach the spot. The 
ganzowra rejoiced greatly to hear of it, and said, 'I must 
go thither!' 

The astrologer continued, 'My father went away but 

3 1 6 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

his ass in leaving stumbled against an obstacle in the 
ground. My father dismounted and saw a portion of a 
bastuqa (covered jar) sticking out of the ground. He dug 
and got it out; lifted its lid and saw within this bowl! He 
rejoiced very much in it, for by its means he could sum- 
mon spirits who showed him useful matters. He earned 
money by it. When my father died, the bowl became 

The ganzowra said, 'This bowl is ours and the writing 
on it was made by my people. I shall keep it and give you 
what you like in exchange.' 

The astrologer answered, 'I do not wish for money, but, 
as I am a darwtsh., I want wherewithal to feed myself.' 

The ganzowra gave him a small metal lamp on which 
there was an inscription, and said to him, 'This lamp has 
a [familiar] spirit, and if you need food or money, you 
will see a small melka standing in it who will bring you 
whatever you want. I will give you this in place of your 

The astrologer was glad, and replied, 'That, also, is 
very good.' 

Now this astrologer was the old darwtsh who came to 
Shuster and told the ganzowra of Shuster that he had seen 
the Mandai. When he had told his tale the ganzowra 
asked him to show him the lamp which the ganzowra of 
the Jebel Mandai had given him. The old darwlsh^ replied, 
'I have it but do not care to show it it is very dear to me.' 

However, the ganzowra of Shuster persuaded him by 
fair words, and one day he brought it, and the ganzowra 
saw a small spirit standing within it. He asked it, 'Where 
are our people, in which spot ?' 

It replied, 'They are in the Jebel Maddai' (for Arabs 
call the Jebel Mandai the Jebel Maddai) 'and when they 
look at you, you are forced to depart!' 

Then the ganzowra asked the other darwtsh^ 'How is it 
that you are half brown and half white ?' 

The first darwish, replied, 'I and my wife, my three 
sons and my daughter, once dwelt in the wilderness and 
killed animals for our food deer, gazelles, wild pig, and 

The Mountain of the Maddai 317 

game of various sorts. My place and my guest-tent were 
far from the 'Arab (i.e. other nomads). One night when 
the moon was in the fourteenth night, I went out and 
killed three gazelles. I bound them together with a strong 
rope, brought them back to my tent and tied them to the 
roof, and sat there with my wife and family. 

'Then we thought we saw something black outside in 
the desert. It came nearer and filled the entire door of the 
tent. I think its head was this breadth (the narrator ex- 
tended his arms\ its belly was immense, its arms were huge 
and it was like a man save that it was covered with hair. 

'When we saw that, my wife and I were greatly afraid, 
saying, "What can this be?" 

'He looked within, and seeing the gazelles tied to the 
roof, he seized them. The rope parted and he swallowed 
all three in one mouthful. The boys fled to their mother. 
He seized one, threw him into his mouth, and ate him. 
The second boy also he seized and ate, and the third, 
and, after him, my daughter. My wife was terrified, and, 
seeing a chink in the tent, she fled out into the desert, and 
he went after her! As for me, I am a Soghmani ! I steeled 
myself, and taking my gun and loading it with lead, I went 
out. The moon was like day : it was easy to see. When he 
saw me, the monster came towards me. I aimed straight 
at the centre of his forehead and shot. He gave a great 
shout, jumped high from the ground, and fell. As for me, 
I lay like one dead until the sun had risen. 

'Then, finding myself still alive, I went to look for my 
wife, fearing that she must have been killed. I searched 
and searched, and then found her in a hole dead ! Since 
the moment when I heard that monster's shout, I have 
been as you see me half-white and half-brown. 

'When Allah saw my state, he permitted me to become 
a darwish,. Then I met with this old darwtsh^ whose tale 
you have heard. He said to me, "My son, you must not 
kill animals! It is not a good thing. Do it not! God 
created us barley, corn, and vegetables. Why kill animals ? s 
It is a great sin !" Then that darwts/i gave me money and 
kept me with him/ 

3 1 8 Legends, Magic, and "Folk-lore 

When he saw the inscription on the lamp, the gan- 
zowra of Shuster was able to read it, although the old 
darimsji could not. The name of the spirit which it 
invoked was Farur. He read it and learnt it by heart, 
then he made himself a bowl and inscribed the talisman 
on it. The spirit came when summoned, and the ganzowra 
found it useful, for, whatever he needed, Farur brought it 
to him. If boys were naughty and misbehaved, he would 
threaten them, 'I will bring Farur P and they were good. 

Now he thought much about the Jebel Mandai, and 
wished to go there, so he, and seven others, amongst 
whom were four relatives of mine, set out. They got as 
far as Syria, where they were employed as silversmiths by 
the King of the Abyssinians (sic). There they met a 
darwtsh. who had been amongst those who went to the 
Jebel Mandai with the Turks, but, when they set out to 
find the mountain, they could not. They went three 
months on the journey, but they found it not! 


1. War and killing are contrary to Mandaean tenets. Punishment in 
Mandaean legends is never accompanied by slaying, unless by the agency 
of heaven, and even then, the powers of light are always besought to be 
clement and spare the life of the enemy. 

2. Libat (Venus) is said to inspire all invention. The worship of 
Libat is categorically forbidden by the holy books, and in the description 
of the mataratha (purgatories) (left side, 4th fragment Ginza Rba) a special 
house of purification is for those 'who go into the house of Tammuz and 
sit there twenty-eight days, slaughter sheep, mix bowls, offer (ramia) cakes, 
and sit mourning in the house of Libat', proving that when the book was 
written Adonis- Venus ceremonies were still observed. Reference to Venus 
worship is made in the gth book rt. side. The bitter denunciation of planet 
worship argues an effort by priestly reformers to quench inherent popular 

3. Pthahil. See p. 95. 

4. Magic bowls are common in Iraq. The bowl is of brass or silver, 
and sometimes has a small raised dome in the centre (upon which the 
scryer's eyes are fixed?). The bowl is inscribed with magic or sacred writings, 
and Mandaean inscriptions are thought to have special virtue and magical 
properties. Water drunk from such a bowl is said to have healing power. 

5. This tale illustrates the attitude of Mandaeans towards the killing 

The Mountain of the Maddat 319 

of animals. The Ginza is contradictory. The 4th fragment of the 3rd 
book rt. mentions as lawful certain animals, 'flying birds, fish of the sea', 
but no animal not slaughtered by an iron instrument, no beast killed by a 
wild animal. Elsewhere (GR. 37) it is written 'Eat no animal. Eat ... the 
flesh of animals called forth from the fruit of the water (fish?).' 

Josephus mentions that the Essenes were vegetarians, and Porphyry, 
quoting Eubulus, says that the Magians were divided into three classes, 
those who abstained from eating any living creature, those who abstained 
from domestic animals, and those who would not touch any and every 
animal. Prof. P. E. Lucius' effort to disprove Josephus' statement about 
the Essenes is not convincing. (Der Essemsmus in seinem Verhaltnis zum 
Judenthum, Strassburg, C. F. Schmidt, 1881, pp. 56 ff.) 

The narrator was Hirmiz bar Anhar. 





TO-DAY I shall tell you what happened when the ganzowra 
who, with Pthahil's help, overthrew the Turks who came 
to the Jebel Maddai, went in search of that place which 
was guarded by the skandola^ of which he heard from the 
astrologer whose bowl he took. 

When he gave the astrologer the lamp in exchange for 
the bowl the ganzowra pondered on what he had heard and 
yearned to go to the place which the astrologer had 
described, and asked the ruler of the shiviahi to take him 

The melka replied, 'I am not able to approach that place 
because of the powerful talisman which protects it and 
which prevents all beings who obey the Melka ad 
eHshukha (King of Darkness) from coming near it.' 

The ganzowra said, 'All I ask is that you will prevent 
lions, wolves, leopards, and snakes from attacking us on 
the way. I wish to discover this talisman and see what it is 

Answered the spirit, 'Be it so! I will conduct you to 
a place not far from it: near, however, I dare not approach.' 

320 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The ganzowra and Nasurai and Mandai got ready and 
on the Sunday they set out. There were many of them. 
The ruler of the shiviahi brought a shiviahi with eyes of 
fire set vertically not horizontally, in his head. His eyes 
appeared flames of fire, and if a wild animal saw him, he 
was so frightened that he ran for a distance of three days, 
so that while the shiviahi travelled with the ganzowra and 
his people, creatures fled on all sides. 

After a month of travelling, and, with the aid of 
Shamish, they travelled in one day a forty-days' journey, 
they reached the place of the skandola, the Talisman, 

(P- 36). 

There they saw the animals as they had been described 

to them, standing on a marble base. The lion and scorpion 
were of gold, the serpent, f Ur, which surrounded the 
group, was of steel, but of such steel as was made in 
ancient times, strongly tempered so that it cut iron as 
though it were a cucumber. The hornet was of a red metal, 
I know not of what kind. 

After they had removed the talisman, the Mandai lifted 
the marble slab, and beneath it they saw a deep vault going 
down into the earth. They lowered ropes and chains into 
it, but could not touch the bottom. The ganzowra and 
the Nasurai examined it; then one of the Mandai said, 'I 
will descend ! Make a long chain, and give me food and 
water for a month, and I will be let down and see what is 

They made a very long chain, gave him a lantern, food, 
and water, and let him down, bidding him farewell, for 
they did not know if they would ever see him again. 

They let him down and down, but, when he was already 
deep down in the earth, the chain parted in two! They 
thought, 'He must be dead!' 

The Mandai fell, but when he came to the bottom, he 
fell on something that was soft as cotton. The lamp had 
gone from him when he fell, so that he had no light. He 
unfastened the chain from his waist and threw it from 
him, then walked forward with his skin of water and his 
food, feeling his way in the dark. He thought he saw eyes 

How the Mandai left the Mountain 321 

of fire before him, but when he reached towards them 
they fell like ashes of fire. Likewise, if he touched any- 
thing, it crumbled beneath his hand. He walked, and 
presently a staff knocked against his legs. He stretched 
forth his hand and grasped it, and felt that it was thick 
and durable and hard. He said to himself, 'This is fortu- 
nate, for if I meet animals down here, I can defend myself!' 
And, as soon as he had the staff in his hand, he began 
to feel light-hearted and glad. He walked thus for seven 
days beneath the ground, and then he heard the noise of 
an animal (^harshasha) and he followed after it. At last 
he saw a light, and the animal issued by it into the upper 
world, for it was a hole. The Mandai enlarged it with his 
staff until he could get through it. Then he came up 
through it and saw the world, all white and fair, and a 
river ! He washed his face, drank water and rested a little, 
then began to pray and thank God saying, ''Aka hei> aka 
marey^ aka Manda-t-Hei! Akvesh ehshukha^ atres anhura!' 
that is, 'There is Life, there is my lord, there is Manda- 
t-Hei! He took me from darkness and filled me with 

light!' (Sic: actually the translation of the latter phrase is, 
'/ tread down darkness and establish the lighf^) 1 

And his prayer was a good one. If a man is angry and 
repeats that prayer he becomes cool and his anger departs 
from him! 

He rose and then looked at the staff. It was all of gold 
and bore an inscription, a talisman written from end to 
end of it. 

After he had been there about an hour, he saw people 
approaching him. They wore no clothes, but their 
bodies were covered with white hair, smooth, like the 
down on a bird's breast. On their faces the hair grew but 
lightly, and on the palms of their hands there was none. 
They seized him and took him away with them and he was 
afraid, saying to himself, 'These people will kill me, for 
they see I am not of their kind !' 

They took him to their Sultan, who, like they, was un- 
clothed and clad only by the white hairs which grew on his 
body. Their houses were of tree-trunks and bamboos, for 

4363 T t 

322 L>e gends^ Magic ^ and Folk-lore 

the air was temperate: there was no cold there. It was a 
pleasant climate, and vermin, snakes, scorpions, and beasts 
of prey there were none in that place. 

When the Sultan saw him, he bade them loose him and 
they unbound his fetters. 

The Sultan took the staff from him, looked at it, and 
questioned him, but the Mandai did not understand his 
tongue. Then the Mandai told the Sultan by signs what 
had happened to him and how he had come there. 

The Sultan asked him by signs, 'On the mountain 
where you live, are there many more people like you ? Are 
there many?' 

The Mandai told him that they were many. 

The Sultan signed to him that he must sit with him and 
teach him his language and his writing so that he might 
converse with him. 

The Mandai taught him the Mandaitic writing and 
pointed to things and told him their names in Mandaean. 
He 'took and gave speaking' with him and remained there 
a month. 

After that the Sultan said to him, 'We are of your kin, 
but we live near Mshuni Kushta. Formerly our speech 
was like yours, but it has changed.' And he said, 'We are 
many here, we are millions ! I will show you how many 
we are men, women, and children.' 

And he took the Mandai amongst the villages and the 
tribes and showed him their places of prayer. Not one of 
the people wore clothes, but their hair fell long from their 
bodies so that they were not naked. 

The Mandai said, 'Hiwel Ziwa ordered us to wear the 
rasta^ the himiana, and the tagha. How is it, if you are of 
our race, that you do not wear these ?' 

The Sultan said, 'Formerly, when our numbers began 
to be great, we quarrelled with the Nasurai.' 

He asked, 'Why did you quarrel with them?' 

The other replied, 'The Nasurai have a doctrine, a 
knowledge, which they would not share with us. We 
wished to obtain that knowledge from them by using force, 
and by quarrelling with them. There were seven great 

How the Mandai left the Mountain 323 

kings, and I was one of them, who tried to make war 
against them and acquire their secrets. We rose one morn- 
ing, and our speech was confused! A light descended 
upon us, di) di) dt, dJ\ in the place where we were all 
assembled. It descended upon our whole nation, men, 
women, and children, and our Mandai tongue went from 
our minds and we knew our tongue no more. We looked 
one upon the other like lunatics (atkuodl\ and were unable 
to comprehend one another. By degrees, we began to 
talk a language which came to us. We knew that Hiwel 
Ziwa had descended upon us and divided us from the 
Nasurai by this confusion of speech. 

'We were afraid, and thought that we might be burnt 
with fire from above, but, thank God ! we were not burnt, 
only we lost our language. We wandered to this place, 
and hair grew on our bodies, so that we discarded clothes, 
for the climate was good. There is no poverty among us, 
and one is equal to another. 2 We draw our water from the 
river and we grow corn and barley for our food, and not one 
is greater or richer than the other. We sleep where we will, 
and only I am in authority. No rough wind or dust comes 
upon us, and no tempests. There is a soft breeze from 
Awathur here, and hot winds and rough winds from eHshu- 
kha (the Darkness) 3 never reach us. It never becomes 
dark, for we see the sun constantly, there being twilight for 
a short while. It is never too hot and never too cold.' 

Then the Sultan said to the Mandai, 'That staff which 
I took from you enables a person to walk the distance of 
seven years in a week. It is so strong a talisman that, if a 
wholly pure person raises it to strike another, the mere 
wind made by its striking will kill! Such is the power 
which God gave it. That vault is a seven years' journey 
in length, and you went through it in a week. 

'The vault was used by the Mandaeans of olden times, 
for at one time they used to make writings and images in 
stone, not on paper. There are in the vault images of 
gold, copper, and stone. When you put your hand on them 
they fell away, for they are very ancient and were made 
by the Mandaeans of old time who hid the images of their 

324 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lori 

gods there.* They represented them with 
clasped one in the other, which is a sign of th 
faith ; for when one is baptized one must stan 
clasped thus ! And you may see images witi 
folded in this manner in museums : it was oui 
made them! The hands are clasped and pr 

"That vault was once a place of prayer. It 
one end and deep at the other. It once belc 
people, but, since the confusion of speech, 
known the way to it. Our language wa: 
language, and we used the [cuneiform] wri 
is now in the museum. These misfortunes c 
because we wished to quarrel with the Nasu 
was angry with us.' 

The Mandai offered to show them the A 
subterranean place, and he took them to the \ 
There they saw inscriptions on marble and 01 
on lamps and on the roof everywhere there ' 
tions. And they said to him, 'The staff is ful 
working! But be careful not to quarrel, be< 
do, by virtue of the staff, your opponent will < 
forgiven us ! You are the sign, for you descei 
vault and found the staff, and were able to 1< 
place in which we used to worship ! By means 
which can convey forty persons the distance \ 
day, we can go and return.' 

The entire nation learned the Mandaean 
their understanding became as strong as it 
They followed the ancient religion of the Ma 
practised ablutions in the river. The sultar 
Mandaean, 'I would restore this staff to yo 
was by its means that God led us back to c 
restored our worship to us. No doubt it was 
that it should come to us through you.' 

Then the Sultan, with forty of his peo 
Mandaean himself, seized the staff, and awa 
taking food and water with them, and tra\ 
Mountain of the Mandai. 

1 'Folk-lore 

hem with their hands 
, sign of the Mandaean 
must stand with hands 
mages with their hands 
: it was our people who 
ted and pressed to the 

prayer. It is shallow at 
; once belonged to our 
f speech, we have not 
guage was once your 
tform] writing such as 
fortunes came upon us 
i the Nasurai and God 

:hem the way into the 
^m to the vault (sir dab}. 
rble and on statues and 
here there were inscrip- 

staff is full of wonder- 
parrel, because, if you 

nent will die. God has 
you descended into the 
s able to lead us to the 

By means of the staff, 
j distance of a year in a 

Mandaean tongue and 

rong as it was before, 
of the Mandaeans and 

The sultan said to the 
taff to you but that it 
back to our faith and 

>ubt it was his purpose 


)f his people and the 
', and away they went, 
, and travelled to the 

How the 

The Nasurai had 
His seven sons anc 
The Nasurai, the IN 
saying, 'He has goi 

One Sunday, aft< 
approaching with 
white in the sun. 

The Mandai as* 
and tarmidi were wi 
looked, and then tl 
him. All embrace< 
one moment they 
As for the Mandai, 
and rejoiced. There 

The ganzowra be 
already from his stu 
these people, but hej 

The Sultan and h 
them, but the Nasui 
would leave the Jebe 
had come from thei 
was no dirt, nor wile 
migrated, forty at a 
them had gone to th 
the river there is so j 
no dirt can remain c 
is equable, there is : 
other vermin there a 

But it is difficult 1 
to it, one must crosi 
most of the Manda 
remain. The counti 
North Star. 

1 . ' kbisJi hshukha e tris n, 

2. The ideal Mandaean 

3. Or the south, the we 

4. Mas'udi mentions th 
underground chambers, wl 

tieir hands 
with hands 
iheir hands 
people who 
jsed to the 

, shallow at 
ged to our 
e have not 
once your 
ng such as 
ne upon us 
d and God 

ly into the 
ult (sir dab). 
statues and 
ere inscrip- 
of wonder- 
Luse, if you 
e. God has 
ed into the 
d us to the 
}f the staff, 
' a year in a 

:ongue and 
;vas before, 
daeans and 
said to the 
but that it 
r faith and 
his purpose 

le and the 
they went, 
lied to the 

How the Mand 

The Nasurai had bewai 
His seven sons and his d 
The Nasurai, the Mandai 
saying, 'He has gone and 

One Sunday, after the 
approaching with a comp 
white in the sun. 

The Mandai assemble< 
and tarmidi were with the] 
looked, and then they be 
him. All embraced and c 
one moment they wept. r . 
As for the Mandai, he sa 
and rejoiced. There was g 

The ganzowra began to 
already from his study of 
these people, but he had n 

The Sultan and his peo 
them, but the Nasurai and 
would leave the Jebel Man 
had come from their cour 
was no dirt, nor wild beast 
migrated, forty at a time, 
them had gone to the coun 
the river there is so pure th 
no dirt can remain on him 
is equable, there is neithei 
other vermin there are non 

But it is difficult to reac 
to it, one must cross a re 
most of the Mandai went 
remain. The country is n 
North Star. 


1 . ' kbish. hsjnikha ' tris nhura. 

2. The ideal Mandaean state is ; 

3 . Or the south, the worlds of c 

4. Mas'udi mentions that the t 
underground chambers, where thej 

he Mandai left -the Mountain 325 

tad bewailed the man, thinking him dead, 
md his daughter had mourned for him. 
; Mandai, and the tarmidi wept for him, 
*one and there was no use in his going!' 
ifter the space of years, they saw a man 
i a company of forty, whose hair shone 

assembled and gazed, and the Nasurai 
with them. The man came near. They 
they began to kiss him and those with 
:ed and one moment they laughed and 
7 wept. The parting of years was over ! 
lai, he saw his parents and his children 
ere was great joy and jubilation, 
began to talk with the Sultan. He knew 
study of history of the disappearance of 
he had not known where they were, 
d his people wished to be reunited with 
.surai and the Mandai decided that they 
ebel Mandai and go back with those who 
:heir country in the north, where there 
yild beast, nor any harmful thing. They 
: a time, by aid of the staff, until all of 
the country in the north. The water of 
>o pure that once a man has bathed in it, 
n on him ever afterwards. The climate 
is neither hot nor cold. And fleas and 
e are none there. 

It to reach that country because, to get 
ross a region of extreme cold. Thither 
idai went, and only we Subba in Iraq 
ntry is near Mshuni Kushta, near the 

is nhura. 

lean state is always communistic. See p. 309, &c. 
worlds of darkness being in the south. Cf. p. 9. 

s that the Harranian Sabians practised mysteries in 
, where they initiated postulants and kept images of 

326 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

the gods. Further, the Harranian poet, Ibn 'A'ishun, mentions in a poem 
that underneath one of the Harranian temples there were four cellars in 
which images stood and in which the Sabians celebrated their mysteries. 
(Ch. S., vol. ii, pp. 332 ff.) 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


ON the 29th night of a lunar month the moon cannot be 
seen, for it has gone to its place. If a man lies with his 
wife that night and gets her with child, the child will be 
born with a sixth finger, or two heads, or bodily defect 
of a serious kind. On this night, no seeds must be sown, 
for the shiviahi who obey Melka ad eHshukha (the King of 
Darkness) have power in the dark of the moon, and they 
are evil. When the moon is full, the Melka d Anhura, the 
King of Light from the world of light, rules the world. 

It happened that about seven hundred years ago a 
ganzowra went in to his wife on this night, and she became 
pregnant. When she was delivered of a boy, the child was 
found to have six fingers on each hand. The midwife 
(judayya) went to tell the ganzowra that he had a son, but 
spoke joylessly, knowing that a child with extra fingers 
is under the power of the shiviahi. The ganzowra asked 
her, 'Why is thy heart not glad ? Tell me the reason ! I 
am happy that I have a son, why not rejoice with me?' 

She replied, 'The boy has six fingers on each hand.' 

The ganzowra was deeply afflicted, but he knew that 
the cause was that he had sown his seed on the twenty- 
ninth night of the moon, for in his heart he had been 
afraid that such might be the case, having made his count 
of days. 

The midwife counselled him to cut off the extra fingers, 
and when he consented she took a knife and cut them off. 
The child grew, but there were marks where the fingers 
had been. In time he grew big, and his father made him a 
priest. Then the midwife went to the other priests and 

The Child conceived on 2<)th Night of Moon 327 

theya/ttfi (literate persons) and said, 'Behold! This was a 
six-fingered child, and he is the son of the shiviahil' 

They replied, 'We know it, and are troubled because 
of it, but we can do nothing!' 

They spoke thus because the ganzowra was a rich and 
a powerful man. 

The Mandai who knew the truth about the young man 
would not be baptized by him. Only those who were 
ignorant allowed him to perform the rites of baptism upon 
them. For with us, if a man has a bddily blemish of any 
kind he may not be a priest. If he has a skin disease, or 
any kind of defect, he is not pure and spotless and may 
not become a priest. 

The young man married a wife, and she bore him a 
daughter, and soon after that the old ganzowra died, and 
his son became ganzowra in his stead, for he was conse- 
crated by him before his death. 2 

The new ganzowra's daughter grew and attained the 
age of eighteen years and was very fair to look upon. She 
had the habit of going into a garden to pick flowers and 
amuse herself, and this was observed by a black slave 
who, seeing that there was no one near her, made up 
his mind to ravish her. One Sunday she went, and the 
slave came and seized her and took her virginity away and 
destroyed her reputation (lit. face). 

She came to her father and wept. He told her not to 
weep, and made her wife to another slave (a black man), so 
that there should be no cause to talk. He made a betrothal 
feast and gave a lavish meal to the Mandai, giving food to 
the poor, dispensing charity, and scattering benefits with 
great liberality. His house was full of guests. 

Now just before this happened, there had been a visita- 
tion of plague, and all the Mandai priests had died of the 
plague only the ganzowra was left! 

The Nasurai, who are people of learning, spotless in 
matters of purity, who wear coats of cocoon silk (jazz or 
qazZ) natural white silk), and write holy books, men like 
darawishj were troubled and ashamed, and the yalufi with 
them. Many wept and cried out on the shame of what 

328 Legends -, Magic ', and Folk-lore 

was taking place namely, that a ganzowra's daughter 
should marry a black man. 

It was Panja the Feast of Five Days which we call 
Paranaia (p. 89). Four of the Nasurai came together to 
consult as to what must be done. First, each man put on 
his rasta and immersed in the river, for at Paranaia 
(Parwanaia) every one must wear his rasta and make puri- 
fications in the river, so that they shall be especially pure. 
The gates of Awathur stand open during those five days, 
and the prayers of the faithful receive an answer quickly. 

So the four made their ablutions in the river, wearing 
their rastas^ and began to pray, ibraha (M. brakha ?) After 
prayer, they said, 'Let us supplicate God to help us in this 
matter perhaps he will send us 'uthri^ or natri^ or 
melki . Then they prayed that this shame might be re- 
moved from amongst them and besought Melka d 
Anhura for his help. As they prayed, a light came down 
amongst them into the garden by the river, and they 
thought they saw in the midst of it two beings made of 
light, who cast no shadow. They cried to them, saying, 
'Help us ! This girl and her father have brought shame on 
us, upon all of us ! Find us a way out ! ' 

Now these two melki were named Zuheyr and Zahrun. 4 
They replied, 'We will baptize you and ordain you 

The Nasurai were rejoiced and exceedingly happy that 
the melki had appeared, and they entered the water and 
were baptized and ordained ganzivri^ but quickly and 
without the usual prayers, because it was a very holy 
baptism which they received. They were henceforth able 
to ordain priests, to baptize, and to perform marriages. 
They asked the two melki> 'What shall we do about this 
basran Sera ?' (basran Sira).s They said, 'He gives charity 
to the poor and needy so as to stand well in the opinion 
of the people and to whiten his face in the eyes of God. 
What can we do? He will have much seed daughters 
and sons, and it will be difficult for us Mandai! Every 
Sunday he makes a feast for Mandai who are poor and 
hungry, and they go to him.' 

The Child conceived on 2.yth Night of Moon 329 

Answered the melki, 'Go to his house next Sunday, and 
let every man take food from that which is set before him, 
but hold it in his hand and eat it not. The ganzowra will 
ask, as he goes round amongst you, 'Why do ye not eat?' 
Then you shall reply, 'Our purification (whitening) is 
upon you! You have brought us harm we will not eat!' 
Throw the food back in the dish and rise, and let not a 
single man remain in the hosih. When all have gone out, 
the ground will open and he and his family will all be 
swallowed up.' 

The Nasurai rose, and on the Sunday they did as the 
melki had commanded them. None of the Mandai re- 
mained in the yard all rose and left their food uneaten. 

Then the ground parted, and. the ganzowra and his 
wife and his daughter fell in and were never seen more. 


i. Sin, the Moon God (other name Sira), is represented as bringing 
about deficiency. 

'To the Moon, Sin, they apportioned Deficiency, from whom all 
Deficiency went forth, (GR., p. 124). The 'sect of Sin' is named in the 
GR. as 'bringing about abortions and deficiencies'. The 4th fragment, 
1 5th book, rt. side GR. says that children begotten in the dark of the moon 
are misshapen and deformed, and that pain and evil result when the moon 
is hidden and Sin 'dies, goes away, and darkens himself. When he emerges 
from the mataratha 'his colour is taken away from him and his form looks 
as though it had never been. Then he seats himself again in his ship, 

'And draws beams of light unto himself, 

They spread a powerful light over him 

And he sets out on his wanderings through the world. 

On the first day on which he appears 

The apex of the firmament is opened, 

He emerges from the upper firmament 

And goes to rest in the lower heaven. 

Until the second day 

His luminous rays light all worlds. 

Until the seventh day of the month 

Sin speaks in the voice of the Life 

Because he remembers his fear and awe of the Life. 

When he has passed over the seventh day 

He has already forgotten his fear and awe. 

He has forgotten his fear and awe, 

And casts Evil into the whole world.' (GR., p. 314.) 

4363 U U 

330 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

Here Sin has a sinister character. In the Drasha d Yahya not so. 'One 
day I (Sin) remain hidden, and my rays are obscured. Obscured is my 
sanctity and both watchers give heed thereon. If I am absent, and men lie 
with their wives, it will happen, if the wife conceives on that day, that deaf 
and dumb and misshapen progeny will result from their union. If she 
conceives on that day, deaf and leprous children will be born to the pair 
or lacking a foot or hand.' Hence it is not Sin, but his absence which is 

For the nature of the Moon-god and his place in Mandaean belief see 
pp. 77 ff. In European folk-lore the child born in the 'dark of the moon' 
is supposed to be witless and 'wanting'. 

2. Or, possibly, at his death, see p. 169, Book I. 

3 . Hirmiz commented here, 'these are the OT///-watchers in the stars'. 
To judge from his story on p. 367 there are also guardian spirits of houses. 
Shaikh Nejm said the natri (watchers) were our spiritual doubles (dmuthi) 
in Mshunia Kushta. The Fravashis of the Parsis exactly correspond. 

4. Two sun "utkria. Seep. 76. 

5 . Basran Sira. A term applied to persons possessing deformities caused 
by the waning moon. Basran seems to mean 'lacking, deficient' (cf. Syriac 

.=> 'to diminish, subtract'). Sira is the other name of the moon-god, 
both Sin and Sira being masculine in gender. Possibly Sira is applied to the 

moon when waning. The Assyrian Nestorians call the moon Sara. 
Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


(The Sweeping and Cleansing] 

WITH us Subba a great feast takes place about the time 
that the dates ripen. It is called the Dehwa Rabba (see 
p. 85), and its eve, or dakhala, is called the Kanshi Zahla. 
The Kanshi Zahla lasts for two nights and the day between, 
and during that time all the Mandaeans remain in their 
houses, taking with them enough water and food to last 
over the period. They keep their fowls, dogs and cats, 
cows and buffaloes shut off in a place apart from the 
dwelling-rooms of the house. For during those two 
nights and a day the *uthri of the sun, moon, and water go 
to Olma d Anhura, the World of Light, and while they 
are absent every Mandaean must remain in his house and 
his animals must be shut up. When the melki and *uthri 
return, we go out and feast, wash in the river, and rejoice. 
The *uihri serve the melki and are under them. Thunder 

The Kanshi uZahla 331 

is the noise of combat between the 'uthri and the evil 
spirits, when the 'utkri hurl the evil spirits down to the 
lower world. We feel the rush of air as they fall, and hear 
the noise and see the lightning. 

If during Kanshi Zahla a domestic animal escapes and 
comes into the house, it becomes unclean and cannot be 
eaten, and if it touches any one in the house, that person 
becomes unclean, and as soon as the feast has begun, he 
must be baptized seventy times by the ganzowra, and may 
not eat or drink until so purified. If only a wasp comes in 
from the desert and stings a man during the Kanshi Zahla, 
he is unclean, and must abstain from food or drink or 
from touching anything in the house until the feast has 
dawned and he is cleaned by seventy maswettas (baptisms). 
(Really 360 E.S.D.) 

Now there was a darwish^ a Subbi, called Majbur 
Subba, of the village of Umm Seyyidiyah, near Amarah, 
who was exceedingly devout. During the Kanshi Zahla 
he and his family remained within their hoshj- and inside 
the hosh. they constructed a reed-hut, with only one open- 
ing, which they kept shut, so that no fly or other impurity 
might enter it. He, and another of their kinsfolk, called 
Ujheyli and Ujheyli's wife, remained together in this hut. 
The woman went out to obey a call of nature, for at this 
time they are allowed to use the yard for such a purpose, 2 
but not to leave the courtyard or come into contact with an 
animal. A zorgi (a marsh bird, with a long bill) 3 was 
sitting on the roof of the house, and as soon as the woman 
had come out it flew down and tore her kerchief from her 
head, so that she was bareheaded and defiled. She began 
to shriek, 'This bird has made me unclean !' Ujheyli came 
out to see what it was, and as soon as he had come out the 
bird came and hit him with its wings. Ujheyli seized the 
bird and put it in the sadd (a clay bin for the storage of 
rice). He put it in that and covered the bin with a cover 
of clay, saying, 'When the Kanshi is over, I will show it to 
Shaikh Zibid! Perhaps he will know what this bird is 
that has come and defiled me!' Shaikh Zibid was a very 
learned man, famed for his knowledge amongst us. 

332 Legends, Magic > and Folk-lore 

Ujheyli and his wife, being then unclean, entered no 
more into the reed hut, but went into another place apart. 
Majbur now remained in the reed hut by himself, and 
presently he mounted on the jawan* in order to reach the 
water and food on a table set in the ch'ab (heel, or further 
end) of the hut. The table was high, and he could not 
reach it except by mounting on the jaw an. He reached 
up and there, by the water, he saw a large frog ! He called 
to Ujheyli who was outside, 'A frog is here and has 
made the food and water unclean! How could it have 
got in ?' 

Ujheyli ran in and seized the frog and put it with the 
bird in the bin, but food and water were defiled, and they 
had to do without it, and remained for that night and the 
day and night which were left, both hungry and thirsty. 
As soon as the Kanshi was over, Ujheyli went to the sadd 
with the intention of taking the bird and the frog to show 
them to Shaikh Zibid. As soon as day had dawned on the 
Great Feast, he put on his clothes and went to the sadd and 
removed the cover. There was no bird and no frog ! No- 
thing! They had disappeared. 

They went to Shaikh Zibid and began to tell him and 
those with him what had happened. When Shaikh Zibid 
heard it, he was amazed, and said, 'Those were, no doubt, 
shiviahi in the shape of a bird and a frog, and they did this 
in order to do you harm.' 


1 . The hosh_ is the entire house compound, the house consisting of rooms 
and cattle-sheds and storerooms built round a square central courtyard. 
Entrance to the house is through a door and passage flanked with a room 
on either side, into the main courtyard or directly into the courtyard. 
A similar plan of building is found in houses of 'Abraham's period' at 
f Ur. 

2. It seems that in former stricter days Mandaeans did not allow privies 
within the house area. Like the Essenes the Mandaeans eased themselves 
in some convenient spot out of doors. It is still strictly forbidden to Yazldis 
to pollute the house-area in such a fashion, and they make no provision of 
the kind in building their houses. 

The KansM uZahla 333 

3. A water-bird, as described, with pale grey plumage. 

4. Jdwan. A wooden receptacle for pounding rice. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. His drawings to illustrate are given below. 

The table with food and water, at the 'heel'* 
(farther end) of the reed hut. 

* cjtab 
FIG. 15. 

The zorgi perched on the hut, waiting for the 

woman to come out. 

FIG. 1 6. 


IN Muhammerah, in the garden of our ganzowra, there 
was a room of which it was said that if a person slept in it 
he would be found dead the next morning. Sometimes a 
marauder or thief, entering the garden, would go in there 
to sleep, and the next day he would be found dead, lying 
as if asleep, with his weapons, his dagger, knife, and 
revolver, still upon him. This happened several times, 
and the ganzowra forbade any of his people to sleep in the 

334 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

room. The garden was a lovely place, with flowers, fruit, 
and shade : by day very beautiful and pure, but none who 
knew dared enter that place by night. 

Now there was an old man in Shuster called ' Aziz ' Azun, 
a Subbi. He liked the company of the learned and pious 
and was always to be found at the houses of the Nasurai, 
the risk 'amma, and the ganzowra. He knew the sacred 
writings and stories, he was possessed of the secret teach- 
ings, and he was a very wise old man. He came to 
Muhammerah and was the guest of the ganzowra there, 
Yahya bar Adam by name. Talk fell one day upon this 
room. They were saying, 'What can be the meaning of it ? 
Why do those who sleep there always die ?' 

When ' Aziz ' Azun heard what they said, he told them, 
'I will go into this matter and find out the cause. I will enter 
the room myself and sleep there and see what it can be.' 

The ganzowra said 'We .cannot allow it ! It is dangerous. 
We will not permit you to go there for, without doubt, you 
will die like the rest. It cannot be!' 

'Aziz 'Azun said, 'No, no! I must go, and you will 
see that good will result from my visit to the room.' 

Now he was very skilled in the matter of exorcism. He 
took his bedding and went into the garden and, furnishing 
himself with six candles, each of which would live twelve 
hours, and putting on his finger a skandola (p. 36), he 
entered the room two hours before sunset. The river ran 
round the garden, it was a beautiful place! It was the 
hour of prayer, and he put on his rasta, entered the river, 
and made his soul very pure with ablutions and prayers, 
so that if by chance death should overtake him, he would 
be purified and ready to die. A good Subbi must wear his 
rasta and purify himself when he approaches death. 

But, with all that, he was not afraid, not afraid at all. 
When the ganzowra remonstrated with him and would 
have persuaded him against staying, he replied, 'I like 
such things! I go into such adventures gladly, and you 
will see that good will result from my coming here.' 

The ganzowra left him, and 'Aziz 'Azun remained 
alone in the room. He kindled a candle and waited. Till 

The Haunting* 335 

midnight he remained sitting there and saw nothing. A 
fresh breeze blew in and he felt tired and inclined to sleep. 
But, at about eight of the night, he saw eyes, like fires in 
the corner of the room, and a creature like an animal. He 
kindled a second candle. Quickly the creature moved, 
and as it moved, sounds like wak\ chak\ came from its 
throat. 'Aziz 'Azun said to it, 'What are you?' The 
creature answered, 'And what are you? Why are you 
sleeping in this garden? I shall kill you!' 

'Aziz 'Azun rejoined, 'And I shall kill you!' and he 
rose and stood between the two lit candles and made an 
incantation around himself which the creature could not 
cross. Then he spoke again to it, saying, 'Why do you 
come here into the ganzowra's garden, into a place fre- 
quented by the Nasurai, tarmidi, and Mandai? Why do 
you come to this place of prayer and flowers and sweet- 
ness, this garden shaded by trees and surrounded by 
water ? Why do you come here ?' 

The shiviahi replied, 'I have been here from ancient 
times, and live here with my father and mother and family. 
I do not harm your people, for I do not touch good 
people; but if a thief comes in to steal, I know it and 
strangle him. No man would enter this garden by night 
for a good purpose, and so, when I find a man sleeping 
here at night, I strangle him!' 

'Aziz 'Azun laughed and said, 'You seem to be an 
excellent guardian of the ganzowra's property! I will go 
to the ganzowra and tell him that you are protecting him 
and keeping away robbers!' 

Now f Aziz c Azun had an exorcism, a spell against evil 
spirits. (My father procured it from him and engraved 
the spell on silver armlets for my mother to protect her 
from evil spirits. This spell gladdens the heart also.) 
c Aziz f Azun had in mind to read this exorcism, but the 
goblin said to him, 'Why are you purposing to read a 
spell against us ? I and my fathers have been here since 
the earliest times ! Are you going to force us to leave this 
place where we have dwelt so long ? I guard it and harm 
none but evil-doers. Shame! Of your favour, let my 

336 Legends, Magic, and IP oik-lore 

father, my brothers, and the rest of my family enter the 
room so that they may speak with you!' 

'Aziz 'Azun replied, 'I should like to see them. Let 
them come! We are friends now, and I will not harm 

The shiviahis father entered first and saluted 'Aziz 
'Azun, saying to him in the Mandaean tongue, 'Shloma 
illakhy (Peace to you!) 'Aziz 'Azun answered, 'Haiyat 
athetV (May life come). The old father sat and the 
shiviahi's two wives and his mother, their children, and 
all the family, entered the room. They were like men, but 
small. Their height was about a foot from the ground. 
I can tell you exactly because, lady, I have seen one with 
my own eyes. (He interpolated his experience, omitted here.) 
Thus are the shiviahi, * but the melki are the size of men 
and white and shining. I have seen melki, too, for the 
power is in our family. My father had it, but only I 
amongst my father's sons have the gift. 

'Aziz 'Azun said to them, 'I do not intend to read upon 
(i.e. exorcise) you, or in any way harm you; but, before 
I depart hence and leave you in peace, I have something 
to ask of you. If you will help me, good ! but if not, I 
shall not suffer you or your family to remain in this place!' 

The goblin's father said, 'Talk with me ! I am old and 
grey and I will tell you everything.' 

Said 'Aziz 'Azun, 'In Shuster there is a house and 
garden. It is a very clean place and in the garden there 
are dates and banana-trees. Its owner was a darwish, but 
he disappeared and no one knew what became of him, so 
it became the property of the Government. And when 
any one wishes to rent it and sits in it, he perceives noises. 
The plates rattle, the furniture knocks, and the water 
splashes. So all who wish to live there flee away and no 
one can remain. The darwish was a good and learned 
man and the Government took the house because he had 
no relatives. Tell me, what is the cause of those noises, of 
that tumult, and that shaking ?' 

The old shiviahi replied, 'That is the spirit of the 
darwtsJi. His neighbours killed him and stole his clothes 

The Haunttngs 337 

and money and buried him in the garden. It is his spirit 
that raps and wishes to speak to people.' 2 

'Aziz 'Azun said, 'I am obliged to you!' 

The old shiviahi said to him, 'If you wish to verify this, 
go to the place. You are a Nasurai and have the power of 
subduing evil influences and conversing with spirits and 
no harm can befall you. This darwtsjh wishes to speak to 
some one by means of rapping.' 

'Aziz 'Azun was delighted to have a fresh piece of 

When it was morning the ganzowra came to see if he 
were alive and knocked at the door. 

'Aziz 'Azun answered, 'HaV 

Theganzowra said, 'You are still living!' 

Replied 'Aziz 'Azun, 'Aye and very happy!' and he 
issued and bade them all peace and told them all that had 

The ganzowra said, 'I will give the shiviahi of my food. 
He is a good watchman, and he and his family shall eat of 
our victuals.' 

Then 'Aziz 'Azun wished them farewell and went back 
to Shuster. 

As regards the darwistfs house which was a little out- 
side Shuster, in the chol, whoever wished to rent it had to 
go to the hakim for it was Government property. So 'Aziz 
'Azun went to the hakim and said, 'I should like to rent 
that house.' 

The hakim replied, 'Go there! I will give it to you 
without rent, for no one who takes it remains there!' 

'Aziz 'Azun took his furniture and his wife (who also 
was not afraid), and they went and put their bedding and 
carpets and other belongings in the house. There was a 
pretty garden, the air was pure and there were trees: in 
short, it was a good garden and house. Before night came, 
'Aziz 'Azun said to his wife, 'For the first two hours of the 
night I will sleep whilst you watch, if you are not afraid!' 

She said, 'I am not afraid; I want to see what will 
happen!' for both were people of knowledge, and people 
of knowledge are afraid of nothing. 

4363 X X 

338 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

He slept ('Aziz 'Azun), and his wife remained sitting 
up. At four hours of the night there had been no noise, 
and, as she was sleepy and wished to sleep, she said to her 
husband: 'Rise, 'Aziz 'Azun! Qom^yahuml (Rise, wake!) 
He sat up and said, 'What did you see ?' 

She answered, 'There was no noise, there was absolutely 
nothing at all!' 

Then he sat up and watched while she slept. He sat 
there till eight of the night, and then a brass basin on the 
table began to knock against it. 'Aziz 'Azun said, 'If 
you are a melek (spirit) talk to me by rapping (hi daqq] and 
if a shiviahi talk to me in raps, and if (the spirit) of a man, 
also talk to me in raps.' 

We have a book called the Asfar Malwasha (p. 25) and 
in it there is information of a tirkhana, a kind of alphabet : 
one stroke means 'aleph', two 'ba', and so on, enabling a 
person to talk by means of these strokes, or knocks. 
'Aziz ' Azun knew this form of counting (hasafr) from the 
Asfar Malwasha and so was able to understand when the 
spirit began to talk with him in raps. 

It said: 'I am such-and-such a darwish, of the people 
of the Sunset (Moors). Those who killed me were three, 
my neighbours So-and-So, So-and-So, and So-and-So. 
They buried me in the garden near the large olive-tree.' 

'Aziz 'Azun wrote it all down. 

The spirit continued, 'I wish your honour to go to 
the hakim and tell him that the darwtsh So-and-So was 
murdered by his neighbours So-and-So and let him give 

'Aziz 'Azun replied, 'I will do so gladly. I will go 
today to the hakim and will make vengeance.' 

Said the ghost, 'When you have caused justice to 
be done, whatever you desire to know, I will inform 

Said 'Aziz 'Azun, 'I am grateful. Let morning come 
and I will go and get justice done.' 

Morning came, and it was dawn and the darwlsh_ 
rapped, 'In the keeping of God!' and 'Aziz 'Azun bade 
him farewell. 

The Hauntings 339 

His wife awoke from sleep and asked him what he had 

He answered, 'I saw him, and we shall profit very much 
by his knowledge!' She rejoiced and was very happy. 

'Aziz 'Azun went to the ganzowra of Shuster and said, 
'I have seen a man, a darwlsh. Did your honour know the 
darwish who lived in that house ?' 

The ganzowra said, 'Aye, he was a very good man, 
constantly engaged in piety, and prayed to God at every 
meal-time. He dressed in white/ 

Then ' Aziz 'Azun told him all and the ganzowra went 
with him to the hakim and they went to the haqq, the 
law- courts. 

They saluted the hakim, who was pleased to see the 
ganzowra, whom he liked very much. The hakim said 
to the. ganzowra, "Amrjinabak! What does your reverence 
command? Seldom do you come here; I see little of you!' 

The ganzowra said, 'There is a strange matter in hand.' 

Said the other, 'What is it ? Of what shape ?' 

The ganzowra said, 'In that old hosh which belonged to 
the darwtsh\ He was killed by such and such men who 
buried him beneath an olive-tree in the garden. No doubt, 
your honour will see justice done.' 

The hakim said, 'How do you know that these men 
murdered him?' 

He answered, "Aziz 'Azun, who took the house from 
your honour, went there last night, and conversed with the 
spirit of the darwtsfi by means of raps.' 

And a learned man, a Seyyid, who was sitting with the 
hakim, said, 'Without doubt, the Subba make useful re- 
searches and turn knowledge to account.' 

The hakim said, 'I will make complete justice upon 
them and we will see the result.' He sent for the three 
men and said to them, 'Why did you kill that darwtsfiF 

They said, l La\ kheyrl No indeed! We did not! We 
did nothing!' 

He said, 'It will be better for you to tell the truth. If 
you do not, I will beat you to death!' and his people seized 
the three men and tied them up to beat them. 

340 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

They still denied. The hakim looked in the face of one 
of them and saw that he was afraid. He took him and 
said, 'Beat him! Make him speak!' They brought a 
bundle of pomegranate twigs and began to beat him, 
saying, 'If you won't talk, you shall die!' 

He said, 'Don't kill me ! I and those two, we murdered 

They said, 'Where did you bury him?' 

He answered, 'We buried him in the garden, under the 

They asked him, 'What did you hide of his belongings ?' 

Said he, 'We took one thousand laibi (gold coins).' 

They said, 'What else?' 

He said, 'We took a brass saraj (a basin for oil) with 
writing upon it.' 

Said they, 'Go and bring it!' The three went and 
brought back the money and the saraj. The hakim was 
delighted and said, 'Now we will go and see where the 
darwisJi is buried, for this is a very strange thing!' 

All went to the garden; the hakim, the three men, the 
ganzowra, 'Aziz ' Azun, and some soldiers. 

They dug beneath the olive-tree and they found the 
strangled man. But there was no smell of decay about the 
body 3 and it was not stiff, but flexible. They were greatly 
astonished at its condition and took it to the doctoriya and 
people of learning, who said, 'There must be life in it as it 
does not stink.' 

He was dead, however, and the tabtb (physician) took 
it to his house and put it in a coffin in his room, and all 
who visited it were cured. If a barren woman approached 
it, she had a child. This marvellous occurrence was of 
God. One man stole an arm from the corpse and sold it 
for much money, and ' Aziz f Azun cut off the other arm 
and kept it. The corpse of that darwtsh was like a doctor 
itself, for it worked cures. 

The arm that 'Aziz ' Azun took he kept in his house 
and received much money from people who came to visit 
it. One miracle was this: a woman who had seven ugly 
daughters came to him. The girls were so hideous that 

The Hauntings 341 

no one would marry them, but, after she had visited 
the arm, within a week their mother married all seven 
of them ! 


1. Shiviahi. See p. 254. These, in modern days, are equivalent to 
fairy folk, goblins, and are not always evil. 

2. This method of conversing with the dead and spirits seems to be very 
ancient. It is not used, however, by Arabs. Hirmiz had never heard that 
similar methods are used in the West, for Occidentals are thought to be 
too materialistic for such practices. 

3 . If the process of decay in a dead body is arrested, it is taken to be 
miraculous and the body is used in magic. I saw at Shuweir, in the Lebanon, 
the corpse of a bishop, who, having died of a tissue affection, was said to 
have been mummified by some natural process. It was taken to be a sign of 
his sanctity and he was placed in an open coffin, so that the afflicted might 
touch him and be healed. However, the pilgrims were not content with 
permission to touch, and so many pinches of flesh were nipped from the 
face that the corpse became unsightly, and, when it had been covered 
with a cloth, a glass top was placed over the coffin. It is still exposed. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


I TOLD you of that darwisji whose pulse continued to beat 
although he was a corpse, that darimsh whose spirit talked 
with 'Aziz ' Azun in raps. Well, the ganzowra of Shuster 
had knowledge more knowledge than 'Aziz 'Azun, 
although that one was valiant, very valiant ! 

At the time the plague came to Shuster the ganzowra 
went to 'Aziz 'Azun, and said, 'I wish to speak to the 
darwishj for the darwish continued to communicate 
through rappings in that house; every night he came at 
about six of the night. And the ganzowra said to 'Aziz 
'Azun, 'When the spirit comes, send for me.' At six of 
the night the darwish^ began to rap, and 'Aziz 'Azun sent 
word to the ganzowra who was waiting and slept not. 

When the ganzowra arrived, the spirit began to knock 
and said, 'Why have you not been speaking with me, 
ganzowra ?' 

34 2 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The ganzowra replied, 'I could not come to speak with 
you before I had permission to do so from Sin, 1 who is 
lord of the night.' (As you know, Sin is not merely light, 
but rules the night, he and those with him. But the 
ganzowra had knowledge enough to talk with Shamish, 
the sun see, lady, what power and knowledge they have ! 
Yes, the ganzowra had spoken with Shamish from whom 
Sin derives his power, and when a king gives permission, 
his minister gives permission also !) 2 Then the ganzowra 
said to the darwtsh, 'From whence comes this affliction ?' 
for the reason he had sought permission from Shamish to 
converse with the spirit was that he was grieved about the 
coming of the plague to Shuster. 

The darwtsh answered him, 'It is Pthahil's work, 
through his soldiers, the shiviahi. The sjnviahi are sent 
to work this evil, led by one under the jurisdiction of 

Then, as the ganzowra had permission to talk with 
spirits of the dark worlds, the darwis_h went from him and 
returned with the shiviahi leader, set over the rest by 
Pthahil. That shiviahi ', when he heard that a man wished 
to speak to him, was surprised and exclaimed, 'How! A 
man knows our secrets? What knowledge and under- 
standing he must have ! ' They both came, and were visible 
to the eyes of the ganzowra^ for there was a certain light 
about them though their substance was air. The ganzowra 
talked with the captain of the shiviahi and the shiviahi 
saluted him, saying, 'Shloma illakh, ya rabbeyY The 
ganzowra returned the salutation saying, 'Shloma illakti wa 
shlama rabba\ Ka afiakjh hena? asking him what it was 
that he and his tribe were sent to do in Shuster. 

The sjuviahi replied, 'Pthahil sent us hither to strike 
down the people of Shuster and take their souls.' 

In truth, many were dying: as many as six hundred 
souls or more. Many houses had nothing but dead in 

The ganzowra said to him, 'Have pity on the Nasurai 
and the Mandai: it is a sin to take them thus!' 

The sjuviahi replied, 'I have no power over such matters : 

The Plague in Shuster 343 

I take my orders from Pthahil, and it is not in my hand. 
But for your sake and the sake of Shamish, I will spare 
your people when I know they are yours. But they must 
remain in their houses and not go out and plunder the 
dead, or take money from the living.' 3 He said this be- 
cause many Subba went into the houses of the dead and 
took their gold and their property. The shiviahi said to the 
ganzowra further, 'There must be this sign, so that my 
soldiers know which are the Mandai and which are not. 
Let the Mandai remain in their houses and not go forth; 
above all, let them not enter the houses of the dead. Then 
we will not strike them.' 

The next day the ganzowra bade the Mandai to remain 
in their houses and not to enter the houses of others, or 
take the money of others. He said to them, 'Show not 
your faces before the shiviahi.' 

How wise the ganzowra was ! The ganzivri of to-day 
have not this knowledge, for the Nasurai buried their 
books that they might save them. But mere reading is not 
everything, and there are those amongst us who still have 
knowledge. My father used to say, 'To him who seeks 
knowledge continually, knowledge and certainty will 
come gladly, and his thought becomes enlightened.' 

The Mandai of Shuster obeyed the words of the ganzowra 
for three weeks, and the plague amongst them was abated. 
After that time, some of them went out and began to take 
money from others and rob the corpses of those who had 
died from the plague. Then all were struck again. When 
the ganzowra saw that, he took his relatives and those 
who had obeyed him and went away to a place far from 
Shuster, where there were gardens, trees, and water. There 
he and his family and their friends dwelt together and he 
made a mandi (cult-hut, see p. 1 24) in his garden in which 
he conversed with spirits. Like a light they appeared 
before him. He called one to him and said to him, 'I wish 
to speak to such and such a shiviahi.' The spirit went and 
brought the captain of the shiviahi to whom he had spoken 
in 'Aziz 'Azun's house, and the ganzowra said to him, 
'Why were the Mandai struck with plague again ?' 

344 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The skiviahi replied, 'I and my people did not strike 
them, but others came from the Melka ad eHshukha 
(King of Darkness) and how could they distinguish the 
Mandai from the rest of the people ? Had they remained 
in their houses, and not gone forth to plunder the dead, 
they would not have been struck down. All is not in our 
hands we take commands from Pthahil and he from 
Shamish, and Shamish from those above, and those from 
spirits higher still : each spirit obeys that set in authority 
over it and may not question the orders given to it.' 

The gattzowra was troubled and said, 'When I am gone, 
who will be able to talk with the realms of light and guide 
my people?' 

Then he set down an incantation which he had learnt 
from the melki. When this incantation is read over salt 
and the salt is sprinkled about a house, the shiviahi, the 
tantah^ and mikrobat will depart from it. But at the time 
of the sprinkling all the inmates of the house must be 
clean and purify themselves. The ganzowra gave it to the 
Mandai so that they might sprinkle their houses with 
salt 4 and keep evil away. 

And the meaning of the haunting of the darw1sh_ was 
this : if a soul has not learnt its way to God, it wanders. 


1. Sin. Pronounced Sen. 'Those with him' are the light-' uthri; see 
p. 76. 

2. I interrupted Hirmiz here to ask how iheganzi&ra talked with the 
sun-god. He replied, 'The ganzowra went into the wilderness (chpl}, to 
a place remote and desolate and to which no one came. He made himself 
pure with many purifications and his clothes were white. He made himself 
pure within as well as without and he had an invocation (lit. reading) and 
he recited it. Then, in his thoughts, he heard a voice speaking: it was as 
if a voice were speaking in his head. The ganzowra said to it, 'I should 
like to have permission to converse with the darwisJl, and Shamish gave 
him the permission to speak, not only with him but with any other spirits 
in the material world or in Mataratha. But he did not give him permission 
to communicate with those in the realms of light.' 

3. Rich describes how, during an epidemic of plague in Baghdad, 
thieves robbed the dead and dying of their valuables. This story recalls the 

The Plague in Shuster 345 

death of the firstborn in Egypt and the wise order that kept Hebrews in 
their houses, avoiding infection. 

4. Salt (see note 2, next chapter), is evidently used as a disinfectant 
and destroyer of vermin which convey disease. Salt sprinkled on bedclothes 
discourages bugs and may possibly have an effect on lice. The whole 
Mandaean system shows considerable knowledge of the arts of healing. 
The importance of health and healing is a vital part of the teaching, just as 
it was of that of the followers of Pythagoras, of the Essenes, of the Thera- 
peutae of Egypt, and to judge from the New Testament, of the early 
Christians. The Therapeutae appeared in pre-Christian times in Egypt, 
and lend colour to the assertion of the Mandaeans that there were Nasurai 
formerly amongst the Copts. The late Babylonian cult of Ea and Marduk 
was a cult of healing. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


WE had neighbours called Dhahaina, and in their hosh 
(courtyard) they had a large nabga (nabqa^ lote-tree). 1 
Whilst they sat and ate in their yard, stones were thrown 
on them from above. They rose affrighted and called to 
the neighbours, 'Who threw stones at us?' The neigh- 
bours replied, 'We threw no stones ! How could we throw 
stones on you?' 

That night when they were asleep and the world was 
dark, stones were again thrown on them. All cried out in 
alarm, men, women, and children. Houses with high walls 
surrounded them, so that stones could not have been flung 
in from the street. They concluded that the stones must 
have come from the lote-tree. They called in Shaikh Joda 
and said to him, 'Can you exorcise this so that it departs 
from amongst us ?' 

Shaikh Joda advised them to take a palm-branch and 
cut it with a knife near the tree, for when evil spirits see 
iron, they fear and depart. They did this, but it was of no 
avail. The flinging of stones increased. They hid and 
watched, but never saw any cause of it. 

Now my father had a writing, a charm which he used to 
read over salt 2 for exorcism, and with it he exorcised evil 
enchanted places such as this, for he was a Nasurai. 

4363 y y 

346 Legends, Magic, and 1? oik-lore 

I went and told them, 'I will read my father's charm 
over salt and bring it and sprinkle it for you.' 

In the night I rose and went into the river wearing 
my rasta and read the charm over salt; then I sprinkled 
salt in their place all round the tree. I returned to my own 
house and slept with my family on the terrace (tarma\ for 
it was summer. There was a room built between our 
house and Zahrun's (the narrator's brother), and it was 
entered from .below : there was no stairway from the roof 
to it, or means of reaching the roof, for the walls were 
high and smooth and no animal could leap on to it. We 
had a habit of throwing rubbish on to the roof of this 
room so that it might be out of the way. 

And from this roof that night it pelted bottles and old 
rags and shoes and rubbish ! We rose and fled into Shaikh 
Joda's house, where they laughed at us, saying, 'Why did 
you not sprinkle the salt in your own courtyard, then you 
would not have been troubled!' We could sleep no more 
that night, but read spells and brought more salt and 
sprinkled it about our place. 

There is a certain Subbi of the name of Miadi son of 

Baroni, a very ancient man. His age at that time was about 
one hundred and thirty years, and yet he was strong, 
eating, seeing, and hearing well a good old age! 3 His 
house was distant from ours by about twenty hosji (houses). 
They began to stone him and his family as they had stoned 
us. A stone struck his wife's shoulder and some stones 
fell on his son. He came to us and said, 'Give us salt and 
come and sprinkle it in our house', for all knew about my 
father's spell, and how he used to bless salt for exorcism, 
after purifications in the river, wearing his rasta and his 
skandola. Salt so blessed is good against satans, evil 
spirits, mikrobat^ and all wicked creatures. 

When my people heard the request they said to me, 'Do 
not give him salt! The last time you gave it, the spirits 
were angry and pelted us! Do not give it!' 

I refused him the salt. Then he and his family fled 
from his house, leaving it empty, taking their furniture 
and gear away; and none, Islam or Subba, dared enter it. 

The Stone-Throwing 347 

But they let the woodshed to a Mosulawi, who slept there 
to take care of his wood. The first night he slept there it 
rained stones and wood on him all night, falling, not so as 
to injure him, but so as to affright him. He was constantly 
stoned, day and night, and at last came to the Subba, 
crying out, 'Dakhtl\ (Protection !) O Subba, what is this ? 
what is wrong with your house ?' They soothed him saying, 
'Why are you afraid ? You are a man, be not afraid of a 
few falling stones ! There is nothing wrong with the house ! ' 

He went back and sat in the courtyard. It was night and 
the moon was full and the weather was hot. He cooked his 
food, rice, meat, and so forth, with his own hand, and sat 
to eat his meal in the open. It was dark in the courtyard 
and as he sat, he saw a white cat before him. It became 
big, and the man said to himself, 'Shinu hail What can 
this be ?' He looked, and it became as big as a dog. His 
heart began to fear. It became very tall and he could 
endure it no longer but began to shriek, 'Come to me! 
DakJul, dak]ul\' The Subba sleeping on the roofs 5 around 
cried out to him, 'Fear not, fear not!' When he heard 
their voices he seized courage to move, and fled forth to 
the neighbours, trembling and mad with fright. The 
Subba tried to calm him, saying, 'Why are you thus?' 
while he said, 'What is it in the Subbi's house ? Why did 
they not tell me?' 

In the morning he got a man to go to the woodshed and 
take out his wood, and he sold it all cheaply. He would not 
return himself, for he was afraid of the place. After that, 
he left Amarah and went back to his wilayat. And from 
that time, if people in Mosul, to plague him, called after 
him, 'The tantal has come!' 6 he trembled and gazed 
behind him and feared. 

Yes, that stone-throwing was not the work of a man, 
mu shpghl admiV 


I. The nabga or nabqa, called the sidr or sidra in Lower Iraq and 
Egypt (Zizyphus Spina Chris ti), a thorny, evergreen tree which bears a 
small, edible, apple-like fruit, holds a unique place amongst the trees of 
Iraq. While little, or no, reverence is paid by Iraqis to the date-palm, so 

34 8 Legends^ Maglc^ and Folk-lore 

essential to life in Iraq, great honour is paid to the nabqa. The dead are 
washed by Shl'as with an infusion of nabqa leaves, and it is considered 
disastrous if a nabqa tree is torn down or uprooted. The man who cuts 
down a nabqa falls ill and dies. The tree is supposed to groan if cut, and its 
sap, red like blood, confirms the idea of its semi-human life. Women often 
visit a nabqa (Tuesday evening being the proper time), and kindle four 
fires of straw under the tree, sprinkling incense on the embers. They then 
go away, leaving four candles burning by the ashes of the fire. I have 
witnessed this several times, and, on questioning the pilgrim to the tree, 
elicited that the magic ceremony was to heal a sick relative. Green rags are 
tied to nabqas, and sometimes offerings of food placed by them. At Qurna 
a nabqa was known to Arabs as the 'Maqam Ibrahim' and by others as 
the 'Tree of Life', for Eden is popularly supposed to have been situated at 
this spot where the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, meet. This tree was 
injured by sight-seeing soldiers during the War, and was protected by a 
wall by the British authorities. It has since been cut down. Tradition is 
that an older nabqa stood in the same place. It is possible that the local 
inhabitants attached no special importance to this tree, but that English 
visitors, asking for the 'Tree of Life' in the supposed Garden of Eden, were 
shown a nabqa, which is thought to have life-giving properties. 

2. See XVI, note 4. Salt has been employed in Iraq for exorcism since 
the earliest times. On account of its whiteness and preservative qualities it 
is associated with life and the soul. The Arabic melh, the Babylonian tabtu 
have both a double meaning of goodness and wholesomeness. Babylonians 
believed that the god En-lil ordained salt (tabtu] 'as the food of the great 
gods, without which no god, king, master, and prince smells the fragrance 
(of cooked food)'. Salt is eaten with most ritual meals (see Chapter XII) 
of the Mandaeans, and is mixed with the white flour of the Qihtha, or 
sacramental bread (as in the Babylonian sacramental bread). 'The mystery 
of salt is the soul', says the Drasha d Yahya. When inscribed bowls were 
buried at the threshold of a dead Mandaean's house so that the shiviaki 
might be kept from the household, a little salt was placed between them. 

3. Making due allowance for exaggeration, it is true that the Subba 
attain patriarchal age. 

4. Here the microbe has been translated into a kind of evil spirit, a 
procedure entirely in accordance with ancient Babylonian conceptions (see 
Semitic Magic, by R. Campbell Thompson, pp. 96 ff.) 

5. In summer it is customary to sleep on the roof-top or terrace. 

6. Tantal. Of course an Arab, not a Mandaean term; the evil spirit to 
the Mandaean would be a shiviaht. The tantal is a kind of Poltergeist 
which usually appears in some tall shape (hence the name, which means tall). 
An Englishwoman tells me that her servants came to her with the story 
that there was a shaitdn or tantal in a small brick room used for storing coal, 
and that when they went to get coal, it threw stones at them. The panic 
grew until they were afraid to enter the yard after dark. The shaitdn was 
said to appear holding its head, and when my friend questioned a servant who 

The Stone-Throwing 349 

professed to have seen it, the man replied that it was tall and wore evening 
clothes 'like Sahib!' Eventually it was laid, on the advice of one skilled in 
exorcism, by sprinkling salt outside each door in the compound and house. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


WE Subba say that there is an ogress that lives in the 
hills, called the kaftar. She is hairy like an animal but is 
made in the shape of a woman, and wears an "aba 1 (cloak). 
When the moon is half-full in the sky, the kaftar comes 
and seeks to play tricks on mankind. She is clever and 
learns languages very quickly. How does she acquire 
them ? She listens at the doors of houses and learns the 
languages that she hears spoken by those who dwell in 
them, Persians, Arabs, Mandaeans, and others. 1 

This is a favourite trick of the kaftar. She comes and 
knocks at the door of a woman before it is light, saying, 
'Come! it is dawn, let us go and milk!' (for the women go 
together to milk the herds at dawn of day). Then she 
takes those who follow her, not upon the road of milk 
(i.e. the way to the flocks), but to another place, misleading 
them, and, if they object, saying 'But this is not the way!', 
she cries, 'Come, come!' When they have reached a 
mountainous place, she throws them down from a height 
and breaks their bones. 

The kaftar once came to Salim's grandmother and 
knocked at her door. It was when they lived in Shuster. 
The kaftar came, and knocking without, cried to her, 
'Bibi, Bibi!' Her husband had warned Bibi against the 
kaftar^ so she was not afraid, but answered, 'Ha ! who is it ?' 
The kaftar said, 'Rise! We will go and get milk!' Bibi 
remained where she was, for she saw it was moonlight and 
not dawn, and guessed it was a kaftar who summoned her. 
So she cried, 'Wait, and I will come!' She put a skandola 
on her finger (p. 37) and took a large needle 2 in her hand, 
and began to open the door. The kaftar cried out, 'What 
have you in your hand?' 

Said Bibi, 'Wait, don't be afraid!' but by the time she 
had unhasped the door the creature had fled. 

35 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 


1. Demons are supposed to be good linguists. Cf. Ginza Rba, book xii, 
6th frag., rt.: 'The King of Darkness knows all speeches of the world.' 

2. Steel as well as iron, is feared by demons. 
Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 



IN Shuster, when the weather is hot, they live in the 
sarddib (sirddb cellar or basement). 1 Each Subbi house 
there has its courtyard in which the cattle are milked, and 
a sirddb, a room lower than the ground in which the 
inmates live during the hot hours of the day. Bibi, of 
whom I have already told you, was a friend of ours, and 
she told me this story, which happened to her in Shuster. 

One day she went into the sirddb and in it she saw a 
female spirit, a melka. It called to her, 'Do not cry out! 
Fear not, I will not harm you!' But her heart was afraid 
and she ran out and went to the ganzowra and said, 'Thus 
it is !' and told him that she had seen a melka in her sirddb, 
He said to her, 'There is no harm in her, let her be ! Speak 
with her and do not be afraid!' 

So Bibi returned to her house and went down into the 
sirddb, and there was the melka, the jinniyah. Bibi began 
to speak with her and asked her, 'Who are you, and what 
is your business?' 

The melka answered, 'Our people spin and weave.' 

Asked Bibi, 'Where is your abode ?' 

The melka replied, 'We live down the river, in a hill. 
When your sons go fishing, let them come to us one night 
and visit us: we will do them no harm.' 

Now Bibi's lads used to go fishing in the river on 
summer nights, and when they heard what the melka had 
said, they exclaimed, 'Come, let us go to thejdnn and see 
what they are like!' 

They took four boys, their relatives, with them, and 
their fishing-net (selltyah), 2 and set off in the night. They 
went far down the river and came to a hill, where they 

Btbfs Sons and their Strange Adventure 351 

heard a noise and saw a light. They went nearer and they 
saw creatures who were just like the children of Adam 
except that they were little. Yes, they were of all kinds, 
men, women, and children, white and black, like the 
children of Adam. They sat beside them and amused 
themselves and talked with them. Then the jam asked, 
'Shall we make you food?' They replied, 'We do not eat 
your food 3 and presently we shall return to our own supper, 
which is in a basket at home, waiting for us.' 

These people said, 'Nay! eat with us! We will bring 
your food hither!' They answered, 'Aye, bring it hither, 
that will be better.' 

Some of thejantt went away and a moment afterwards, 
there was their own food, on their own plates, set before 
them ! They ate, and thejann bade them put the plates into 
their bosoms when they had finished, and this they did. 
Then they departed, intending to fish in the river and to 
return to their houses. They began to fish, but, after a 
little, they saw a man standing on the bank. They asked 
him, 'Who are you?' He replied, 'I am a fisherman!' 
They looked at him, and thought he did not look entirely 
like a human being. He said to them, 'Come! fish with 
me and we will be partners, for there are plenty of fish 

They said to him, 'You have no net how can you fish ?' 

He answered, 'There is no need of a net I will seize 

They threw their net and gazed at him, for he was 
becoming larger. He became very tall, and in one moment 
he had become so big that he stood with one foot on the 
bank and the other in the middle of the river. Then he 
bent and gathered the fish into his two hands ; fe, 4 kosaj 
(shark), gatan^ jarag^ ragga (turtle), bunni, shabbut, jirriy^ 
every kind of fish ! He caught them in his two hands and 
threw them on the shore. The lads cried, 'Why should we 
cast our nets ? This one catches fish in abundance without 
a net!' And they cried to him, 'Catch us fish!' And the 
man dredged up the fish with his hands and made them 
into heaps, each fish according to its species, but the good 

Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

fish he caused to look very small, while the poor fish and 
uneatable he caused to look very big. Then he called to 
them, 'Tafaddalu\ Be pleased to choose here are heaps 
of fish, let us make a division !' 

They looked and said, 'This is no fair division!' but 
they were now afraid of him, because he looked like a 
tantal. They said, 'It cannot be thus!' and stooped to 
alter the heaps of fish. Then he seized their testicles and 
wrought them harm and shame. They cried, 'Take all the 
fish and let us go!' but he answered, 'It cannot be, you 
must take your fair share ! ' They remained so till morning ; 
he forcing them to divide the fish and treating them 

Bibi in her house said, 'I must go to see what is keeping 
the lads so long. Perhaps mischief is afoot!' 

She took a large needle and stuck it into her futah 
(head-kerchief), and, taking a chamagh? (stick) she began 
to walk down the river, calling them by their names. 
Haddad, her eldest son, called to her when she was near 
them, 'We are here! the tata/has us!' 

Bibi answered, 'I know what to do wait for me!' 
The tantal heard her and looked in the direction of her 

Bibi cried to the tantal 'I will run this needle into your 

He was afraid, and when he saw that she was near, he 
plunged into the river and disappeared. 

The lads told their mother, 'From four hours of the 
night until ten hours of the night he afflicted us and 
wrought us harm!' 

Then they took the good fish and went home, leaving 
the uneatable fish on the river bank. When they entered 
the house, they threw down the fish and said to their 
mother, 'Give us food, we are very hungry!' 

She went to the basket where the food for their supper 
had been, but it was empty, and their plates were not there. 
She was astonished and cried, 'The food and plates are 
gone and yet no robber could have been here!' 

They said to her, 'Do not be afraid! Our food was 

Btb?s Sons and their Strange Adventure 353 

brought to us by thejannV and they drew the plates out 
from their bosoms, and told her what had happened. 

The next day Bibi went to the ganzowra and told him. 
He was very much amused, and said to her, 'If that melka 
comes again to the sirdab^ ask her for something of theirs, 
so that, when a woman is in childbirth, the gift may pro- 
tect her from harm.' 

Bibi returned home, and when one day she entered the 
sir dab and saw the melka there, she said to her, 'Give me 
something of yours!' The melka answered, 'I will give 
you my ladle,' 6 and she gave it, saying, Tut this beside a 
woman in childbirth and evil spirits will not harm her 
for they will know that it is my token.' 

Bibi preserved the ladle for the use of her family and 
friends, and my daughter has it to-day. 


1. Most houses in Iraq possess such cellars, and the family migrates 
down into them during the hot weather. Jdnn are commonly supposed to 
haunt underground chambers. 

2. Selliyah. A circular fishing-net with a drawstring, much used on the 
Tigris and marshes. 

3 . A person who eats of the food ofthejann is rarely permitted to return, 
but remains amongst them always. 

4. All these are fish commonly found in the Tigris and Euphrates. 

5. Chamdgh. A short rough stick carried by felldhin and tribesmen. It 
is not used for walking, but for driving cattle and for self-defence. It is 
thick at one end, which is often plastered with pitch. 

6. Mess. A perforated flat ladle for lifting rice from the pot, usually of 
iron. Women in childbirth are peculiarly susceptible to attack by shivia/ii 
because of their unclean condition. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


SHAIKH ZIBID was a very learned man, of much know- 
ledge, and he was fond of animals, and liked going out into 
the chpl (country, desert). He used a snare (nosha) to 
catch birds and ducks. But he noticed that when a 
khudhairij- a green bird with a bill like a duck, descended 
into the snare, all the other birds fled away and only the 

4363 Z Z 

354 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

khudhairi remained to eat. It was always like that 
whenever this bird appeared the others flew away. So, 
when Shaikh Zibid wanted to catch birds, he tried to 
frighten this bird away. But he wondered why this 
should be, and one day when the khudhairi^ which he 
nicknamed Mas'ud, came into the snare and the other 
birds flew away, he pulled the rope, the snare closed, and 
the khudhairi was caught. The bird tore the netting of the 
snare, flew to Shaikh Zibid, struck him and hurt him. 
Shaikh Zibid called out, 'Why, Mas'ud, why?' 

He went to the ganzowra Shaikh Damuk, father of 
Shaikh Joda, and told him what had happened, saying, 'I 
cannot understand how the bird had the strength to tear 
the net, for it was thick strong netting!' The ganzowra 
said to him, 'That was no bird, it was a melka. Next time 
you see it, do not anger it, but speak politely to it, saying, 
"Mas'ud! I want to catch birds for food, that my family 
may eat!'" 

Shaikh Zibid went to the chpl again and set the snare 
and soon saw the bird again. He began to talk to the bird 
while it was yet far off, saying, 'Mas'ud! I beseech you, 
permit birds to come, so that I may catch khudhairi* 
hudhud, koshar^ bilbish\ 2 I ask this favour from you and 
will neither hurt nor seize you any more!' 

Now the 'Arab had four or five snares set in that place. 
The bird Mas'ud went to the snares of the 'Arab and 
drove the birds away from their snares and into that of 
Shaikh Zibid. He flew before them, as a shepherd leading 
his sheep, and brought them into Shaikh Zibid's snare, and 
he with them. Shaikh Zibid seized the birds, but let the 
other go free, saying, 'Pardon, Mas'ud ! Deign to depart ! 
Thanks, Mas'ud, well done!' 

Every day he caught birds, and when they asked him 
how it was that he caught so many, he replied, ' Mas'ud 
brought them to me!' He used to give some of the birds 
to my grandfather and my relatives there. 

One day Shaikh Zibid and one Fayyadh, a Subbi, were 
walking in the chpl. The weather was fine and it was 
night, with a moon. Fayyadh thought he saw a white hare 

Shaikh Zibid 355 

moving before them, hither and thither, and presently he 
stooped and seized the hare and put it in his bosom, saying, 
'I will take this to my son'. 

They walked on, for the weather was very pleasant and 
they were out to enjoy themselves. Presently Fayyadh 
thought he heard some one calling him by name from far 
away, l Ta Fayyadh\ Ta FayyadhV He looked in every 
direction, but saw no one, nothing ! When they walked on, 
it began again, 'Tal Fayyadhl Ta FayyadhY They stopped. 
No one! Nothing! Once, twice, thrice they heard this 
calling and by now it was near dawn. Shaikh Zibid began 
to laugh about it, and Fayyadh drew out the white hare to 
look at it, and holding it in his hands, he asked playfully, 
'Who cries "Fayyadh"?' 

She replied, 'I, my uncle! You are my uncle !'3 

Startled, he threw the hare to the ground and fled away, 
running. Shaikh Zibid did not run away : he followed the 
hare and picked her up and began to talk with her, saying, 
'Please, what are you ? Of what kind and species ? Jinm, 
melka, what are you ?' 

She answered, 'I am a daughter of the king of thzjann, 
and one of our slaves, in the shape of a wolf* is seeking to 
do me harm, and I come to you for protection.' For, if a 
wolf makes water upon zjinmno matter what shape thejinni 
has taken for protection, it (thejinnf) is choked and dies. 

Shaikh Zibid looked and saw the wolf, which was 
watching them in the distance to see what would happen. 

She cried, 'Look at that wolf! Do you see it?' 

The wolf began to draw closer to Shaikh Zibid, but the 
latter had with him a lance with an iron tip (see p. 345), 
and when the wolf had approached quite close he hurled 
his lance at it and killed it. Shaikh Zibid said to the hare, 
'Now all is well! Return to your father!' 

She began to run before him and he followed her. His 
heart began to fail him, not knowing what might befall 
him, but he said to himself, 'Courage! Why fear? I 
killed the slave who sought to harm her; without doubt, 
her father will be grateful to me!' 

They came to a mound like a hill (ishari).* She entered 

356 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

and he entered with her. He saw a place for sitting in, 
and she said to him, 'Stay here while I fetch my father. 
Do not fear if skiviahi come ; fright is evil, and no harm 
will come to you if you are not afraid.' 

And, in fact, whilst he sat there, some of her people, 
the shiviahi, came and looked at him. Their eyes were put 
lengthways in their faces, not set horizontally like the 
eyes of men. They were smaller than men, and uglier. 

After an hour, a light came towards him from below, 
and a voice said to him, in Mandaean, 'Asotji havilakhV/ 
for the spirits speak to every man in his native tongue* 
Shaikh Zibid returned, 'Aswatha ad hei havilakhV // 

Then the king said to Shaikh Zibid, 'You did well to 
save my daughter from the slave that slave was not a 
good spirit! What do you command me to give you? 
Ask whatever you desire!' 

Shaikh Zibid replied, 'I ask of you that if I visit a sick 
person I may be able to cure him, or if a mad person that 
when I go to him he shall return to his senses.' 

The melka said, 'As you wish ! All knowledge shall be 
yours!' Then he ordered Shaikh Zibid to come close to 
him and Shaikh Zibid went until he stood before the king. 
The king said, 'Gaze at me!' and, holding a bowl of water 
in his right hand, he began to recite softly to himself. 
Shaikh Zibid thought that rays of light issued from the 
eyes of the king and entered his own head. When the 
king had done reciting the spells, he bade Shaikh Zibid 
drink from the bowl. After Shaikh Zibid had drunk of the 
water, he began to see the world with other eyes! He saw 
it just as a man looks at it after he has been taken half- 
drowned from the sea! He rejoiced in the world! 'How 
beautiful it is !' he thought, and was happy beyond measure. 
The king repeated, 'All knowledge is now yours !' 

And, lady, Shaikh Zibid was a miracle of knowledge 
from that day! If a man or woman sought from him 
information as to the whereabouts of a relative of whom 
they had no news, he would say to them, 'Come again to- 
morrow, and I will tell you where your son is' (if it were 
a son who was lost). 

Shaikh_ Zibid 357 

Then his spirit left him; went out from him in his 
likeness into the air and searched for the lost person, 
learnt where he was, and returned into his body. Fsh-sh^-sfi \ 
he returned unto himself, and when the inquirer came back 
and asked him, 'What have you seen ?' he would reply, as it 
might be, 'Your son is in the district (markaz) of the 
Muntafiq', or 'with Shaikh Mahy in Nasariyah', or where- 
ever it might be, naming the place. 

Shaikh Zibid was wonderful. Not only Subba but 
Islam went to him. If something had been stolen, the 
robbed persons came to him and said, 'Tell us where the 
thief is!' He would reply, 'Not so! but I may get your 
property back for you!' Then, having in the spirit found 
out who the thief was, he would call him secretly and say, 
'My son, give back that which you have taken', for he did 
not wish him to be imprisoned or beaten for his crime. He 
would reason with the thief quietly. 

He had only to approach spoiled food and it would 
become wholesome, and to go near the sick and they were 
cured. People used to swear by his name that they would 
tell the truth and it was a binding oath. He died about 
seventy-five years ago when he had attained an age of 
about one hundred and twenty years, and is buried in 

Aye, he had only to look at .those whose wits were 
distracted and they were sane. When he had become 
weak and old and could go no longer to see sick persons, 
they used to take his staff and touch a patient with it and 
he was made whole instantly. My father used to go to his 
house when he wanted news of his son. He used to visit 
him in his house, a clean, pleasant place in a garden sur- 
rounded by flowers, grass, and trees. This was the house 
he used to sleep in when his spirit left him. 


1 . lit. 'little green one'. This name may be given to any green bird, but 
is usually applied to the bee-eater. 

2. Names of birds. Hudhud is a hoopoe, but I have not discovered the 
English equivalents of all. 

358 Legends, Magic, and Folk-tor 

3. 'Uncle' is a friendly mode of address, when speak 
older than oneself ^Ammi\ 'my uncle'. 

4. Of the magic powers of wolves ovexjann I have writ 
of *Iray, p. 112. 

5. ishan. Marsh Arabs so call the mounds which covf 
Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


LADY, there are people in India who see thii 
and sometimes, when they appear to be sleej: 
out of the body. There are men of the reli 
Ram who have this power. A man told m( 
the War he wished to have news of his wife ; 
He went to one of these men who had a hi 
near the river with the door to the south an< 
the hut towards the north between the sun a: 
Star. And we also, when we are dead and w 
lie with our feet to the north so that when w< 
the North Star. A person should sleep w 
across, the path of the sun, and it is bad t< 
placed east and west. During the day th 
works powerfully: at night the veins work 
man's courage is low and he fears easily, f 
sleep in the proper direction, for that prote 

This man, my friend, went and saw the 
told him to return at twelve the next day. H< 
twelve as he was anxious to hear. He gaz< 
hole into the hut, and saw the man sleeping, 
the hut the door was fastened with string 
him to waken him. The man was as if dead, 
him again, but there was no response ; he wa 
he were dead and his face was the face of a 
friend was frightened and fled away, fearii 
were found there with a dead man, people m 
had killed him. There passed two days and] 
said, and he returned to the hut. He found 
and sitting there. He was delighted and salut 
Indian asked him to sit, bringing chairs, an< 


when speaking to a stranger 
m I have written in Folk Tales 
s which cover ancient sites. 


10 see things in trance, 

to be sleeping, they are 

>f the religion of Ram- 

n told me that during 

* his wife and relations. 

had a hut of bamboo 

south and the head of 

the sun and the North 

2ad and when we sleep 

t when we rise we face 

I sleep with, and not 

: is bad to have a bed 

he day the circulation 

ins work weakly and a 

s easily. So he should 

that protects him from 

d saw the Indian, who 
set day. He went before 
, He gazed through a 
i sleeping. He entered 
th string and touched 
as if dead. He touched 
ise ; he was exactly as if 
5 face of a corpse. My 
vay, fearing that if he 
people might think he 
days and nothing was 
le found the man alive 
1 and saluted him. The 
:hairs, and appeared to 

"I < 

Of Be/ 

be perfectly well, 
you been there! 
The Indian askei 
The man repliei 
you were dead and 
The Indian said, 
soul was with your 
He said, 'Good! 
Said the Indian, 
worked. Yes, I saw 
He asked, 'In wl 
Said the Indian, ' 
such and such a nui 
The man did nol 
and he sent a cable 
Bombay. An answe 
returning on such a 
And his relatives 
saw them, and the 
truth, how could sue 
'Did ufaqir come to 
She replied, 'Yes 
and we rose to sen 
parted again/ Thes 

This piece of gossip i 
ideas and intercourse with 
in communication with I 
been Indian colonists in t 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar 


WHEN my aunt Sut 
was very sad, for he 
her tomb, which w; 
skandola. When he 
groaning near by, an 

Of Beholding 

be perfectly well, as your 
you been there! 

The Indian asked him, ' 

The man replied, 'I a 
you were dead and I went 

The Indian said, 'Whei 
soul was with your childre: 

He said, 'Good ! Did y< 

Said the Indian, 'My b 
worked. Yes, I saw your s 

He asked, 'In what plac 

Said the Indian, 'In Par: 
such and such a number.' 

The man did not know 
and he sent a cable to the ; 
Bombay. An answer came 
returning on such and sue 

And his relatives rode i 
saw them, and the man ss 
truth, how could such a thi 
'Did ?ifaqir come to you ?' 

She replied, 'Yes, a faq 
and we rose to send him j 
parted again.' These are L 


This piece of gossip is interest: 
ideas and intercourse with India. I 
in communication with India by s| 
been Indian colonists in the port. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


WHEN my aunt Subeyha c 
was very sad, for he loved 
her tomb, which was seal< 
skandola. When he was tl 
groaning near by, and look] 

e holding Events in Trance 359 

, as your honour would have seen, had 

ted him, 'Why did you not come before ?' 
led, 'I came on Thursday and thought 
id I went back.' 

d, 'When you came, I was not here : my 
ir children and people.' 
I! Did you see my relations?' 
, 'My body was empty, only my blood 
iw your son and I saw your wife.' 
what place were they ?' 
L, 'In Paris, in such and such a street and 

lot know whether this was truth or lies, 
le to the address. At the time he was in 
wer came back, 'We are well and we are 
i and such a date.' 

es rode in a ship and returned, and he 
e man said (to himself), 'Truth or not 
such a thing be ?' and he asked his wife, 
: to you ?' 

fes, a faqtr entered our house one day, 
end him away. He entered and he de- 
icse are Indians of the Ram-Ram sect. 


p is interesting as showing the constant contact of 
/ith India. Basrah, a centre of Mandaeans, has been 
h India by sea for centuries, and there have always 
n the port. 

bar Anhar. 


mbeyha died, my uncle, Shaikh Mahy, 
he loved her. He stayed constantly by 
was sealed on the four sides with the 
he was there, he heard a crying and a 
and looking about him, he found that it 

360 Legends ) Magic, and Folk-lore 

came from a neighbouring grave. Some women who were 
gathering thorns for firewood close by, heard it too, and 
were so frightened that they ran away. My uncle asked 
them who had been buried there, and they replied, 'A 
robber who committed several murders'. My uncle, 
Shaikh Mahy, thinking that perhaps the man was buried 
alive, went to his relations and said to them, 'There is a 
wailing coming from the grave, perhaps the man is not 

They opened the grave and took the man out, and he 
was dead, but there was a long nail which entered his 
skull and went down the length of his body, another long 
nail through the right shoulder which came out at the right 
foot, and a third on the left shoulder coming out at the left 
foot. A most strange thing ! Work of the shiviahi \ 

The people drew the nails out of the corpse and took 
them to a smith called Mureyhij, a Subbi, who forged 
nails for mashahtf. 1 They said to him, 'Look! Of what 
metal are these nails ?' 

He rose and put the nails in his furnace and blew up 
the fire, but, however hard he blew and however hot the 
furnace became, the nails remained cold, so cold that they 
could grasp them and hold them in their hands. The 
Turkish hakim (governor) heard of this and he said to 
them, 'This is a fine curiosity! 2 Bring it to me in the 
office !' They brought the nails to him and left them there, 
and I do not know what became of them. 

I will tell you another strange thing. This happened 
to us when we were in Shuster. There were those who 
bore our family a grudge because we were always very 
rigorous in all questions of purity, and not only rigorous 
about ourselves, but we would never admit a polluted 
person, or a person in whose family there was pollution, 
or physical infirmity or deformity, into alliance with us. 
However much we liked them, we would not marry with 
them, or carry their coffins, or have anything to do with 
them, and many disliked us because of it, for many Subba 
are not careful about such matters. 

The mother of Kajar, my grandfather, died. 

How Evil Spirits abuse the Dead, &c. 361 

Some of these Subba said, 'We will go and take her 
corpse and throw it out of the grave', for they hated her. 
They were people such as I have mentioned, and we will 
not give or take in marriage from them, however rich 
they may be ! We will only marry with our kind, however 

Yes. The old woman died, and they took her and 
buried her properly. They read the Ginza Rabba near her 
tomb and ate lofani and gave food to the poor Mandai. 

At four of the night, three Subbis went and dug her up 
and took her out. They put a rope round her and pulled 
her out. 

She had three sons: Kajar (my grandfather), Faraj, and 
another. Faraj was sleeping, and she came to him in a 
dream. He saw her coming softly to him, and called out, 
'O mother, mother!' She said to him, 'So-and-So, So-and- 
So, and So-and-So, sons of So-and-So, came and put a 
rope round me and drew me out of my grave!' 

Faraj rose like a madman, crying, 'Kajar ! My brothers ! 
Rise! Get up! Get up!' 

His wife seized him, saying, 'What is it ?' 

He said, 'My mother has just come to us!' 

She said, 'It is a dream!' 

He said, 'No! My mother came to me: I saw her in 
truth!' He told them what his mother had said, and they 
went up to the roof of their house which stood high. The 
graveyard was further down the hill, below. They looked 
and saw a light near their mother's grave. Each seized a 
stick and went out. There was a thick, thick darkness, 
and they came unperceived on the grave-robbers and 
seized them, and put their mother back into her place, 
putting a plank above her so that no earth should fall on 
her. Next day they took the men to the judge, who 
ordered that they should be beaten severely, and up- 
braided them, saying, 'Why did you act thus ?' 

Their people went with their relatives to the ganzowra 
and said, 'Protection ! The judge is going to punish our 
sons! Mercy!' 

The ganzowra went to the judge and said, 'For my 

4363 3 A 

362 Legends , Magic , and "Folk-lore 

sake forgive them ! They come of respectable people, and 
they did this out of madness. I know they are thought- 
less youths, and so for my sake, forgive them and release 
them from prison.' He (the ganzowra) was also of our 

The judge did so. Aye, it was a strange thing! Faraj 
said, 'She talked to me and was not changed in her appear- 
ance. She looked exactly as she did when she was alive, 
like her own portrait.' From such happenings we know 
that the soul wears an earthly likeness when it leaves the 

Again. One Subbi died he was quite dead, he had 
gone! They placed a lamp beside him and a man called 
Ujheyli sat by him watching, for we do not leave the dead 
un watched. Ujheyli looked at the corpse and he saw it rise 
and begin to grope about with its eyes closed. Ujheyli 
shouted, 'He has come alive! (Sar f adH). Come, come!' 

They rushed in. The woman was overjoyed that her 
husband was alive. They came and felt him. His pulse 
was not beating: he was cold, he was dead! A Persian 
doctor was brought in to see him and he examined him 
and said, 'The man is dead!' But a second time, the 
corpse rose and did as before, and all the people fled before 
it. Three times that happened. The ganzowra heard of it 
and said, 'This is shiviahfs work! Perhaps you did not 
put the skandola on him!' For it is our custom to put the 
skandola and a knife with a dead person. 

They replied, 'No, we did not!' 

They put a skandola on his finger and a knife by his side, 
and the dead man did not rise again. It was the work of 
shiviahi. This is true. 


1. Sing. Mashhuf. A flat-bottomed boat. Seep. 52. 

2. Khosh 'atika. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 



WHEN a Mandaean dies he is not put into a box like a 
Christian, but is wrapped in a bania, which is of bardi, and 
like a reed mat. Then ropes are twisted of the leaves of 
the date-palm, and bound about the whole, and stalks of 
the palm-frond placed between the ropes so that four pure 
and pious men, called hallali, can carry the body to its 
grave, holding these palm-stalks (jerids) (see Chap. XI). 
The body is never buried at night, and if a man dies at 
sunset or in the afternoon they bury him next day. In 
any case three hours must elapse before a man is buried; 
and to make the bania and the ropes, which must be 
freshly woven, and all the other preparations, six hours 
are usual. 

Our religion forbids us to weep for the dead, as weeping 
enables the shiviahi to harm them, and men never do so. 
But women sometimes keen for the dead. It is not good, 
but they do it. 1 

In Mohammerah there was once a Subbi called Bahram. 

He was sick unto death, so they clothed him with the 
rasta and he died. It was about ten o'clock when he died 
(i.e. two hours before sunset). A Persian doctor saw him 
and said that he was dead. He was dead, completely dead. 
They brought reeds and wove the bania,, and washed him 
and closed his eyes, but left the burial for the next day, 
because the day was near its close. They put a light white 
cloth above the corpse, a lamp beside it, and attached a 
skandola and knife to the body. This we do with our dead, 
removing the skandola and the knife chained to it before 
the man is buried. The clay of the tomb is sealed with the 
skandola on all four sides. But should the dead be a 
bridegroom or a woman who has died in childbed, they 
leave the skandola on the finger of the corpse. 2 

So they prepared the body of Bahram, and friends 
came to watch beside him, for we do not leave the dead 
alone. Now Bahram had a son and daughters, wife and 

364 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

an old mother. He had supported them all by his work 
as smith. 

At about one o'clock of the night his mother came to 
him, saying, 'I want to see my son, I !' She came near and 
uncovered the face of the dead. The watchers said to her, 
'Why do you uncover him ?' 

She replied, 'He is my son! I yearn to see him!' 

She bent above him and kissed him, and said, 'O my 
son ! Who will now provide your children's food ? And 
what shall I do, I ! I must beg my food from door to door 
of the Subba, and your children must they beg too ?' 

She stretched out her hand and caressed his breast, 
crying, 'Thy breast will go beneath the dust! O the 

As she touched his breast, she felt that it was a little 
warm. She thought that a vein seemed to beat. She 
called the watchers, saying, 'Come, come! My son's body 
is not cold! A pulse is beating!' 

They came and felt him and said, 'Yes, true! He is a 
little warm!' 

His heart then began to beat feebly, but his eyes 
remained closed until, gradually, gradually, the lids began 
to lift a little. But the eyes remained for some time fixed 
and unmoving. By this time it was midnight. At last his 
eyes began to show life. When she saw that his eyes were 
moving, his mother was overjoyed. She was glad with a 
great gladness. She went and milked a cow in the court- 
yard and warmed the milk, and brought it and put some 
into his mouth with a spoon. He began to swallow. 
Gradually, gradually, his two arms and legs began to move. 
At sunrise he sat up ! 

All the people said, 'Bahram died and came to life again ! ' 
Some of them came to him later and said, 'You were dead! 
You went and returned ! Tell us of the road and what 
you saw! Tell us!' 

Said he, 'Those who took me from the body were dim- 
sighted (aghmisifi saru). When they brought me to 
Pthahil, in the place of souls, he looked at me and said to 
them, "Ye have made a mistake: ye should have brought 

Men who have returned from Death , &c. 365 

the soul of the girl Zarlfah." Then they brought me back, 
softly, softly, and my soul re-entered my body.' 

Zarlfah was the daughter of a neighbour, and at the 
moment Bahrain told them of this, she appeared to be in 
perfect health, and they gave her no word of what he said. 
But, at the fall of that day, although she had appeared to 
be well, she died suddenly, of a sickness of the heart. 
Strange ! 

This has happened more than once. There is a tribe of 
the Subba called the Al Bu Zahrun, who live at Halfayah 
near al-'Amarah. They subsist by making boats, sickles, 
spades, hatchets, and such implements for the 'Arab of 
the district. Amongst this tribe was a man who died. 
He died completely, and all who saw him thought him 
dead. But, like the other, he returned into the body. 
They had made all preparations for his burial when he 
returned, and he had been dead six hours. 

They asked him, 'Whither went you ?' 

He said, 'They took me towards the place of souls. 
And amongst those with me, I saw Sindal and Tamul. 
They also were on their way to Pthahil. But Pthahil 
ordered me to return, for the shiviahi had brought me in 
mistake for another.' 

When they heard what he said, the Subba of that place 
sent into al-'Amarah, where Tamul lived, to ask after his 
health. They found that he had died. But Sindal lived 
amongst the Subba who were in Persia and they tele- 
graphed to ask about him. His relatives telegraphed 
back, 'He died on Sunday morning.' So it was true. 

The tarmidi asked the man who had returned concerning 
the appearance of the souls of the dead, and he replied, 
'Sindal and Tamul looked exactly as when they were alive, 
and wore the same clothes they had worn in life. They 
appeared exactly as they would have appeared if one had 
seen them in a dream!' 

On the subject of the death rasta 

Upon the rasta of one about to die, we sew gold threads 
on the right and on the left silver. The right is for Melka 

366 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

Ziwa, for the gold is the metal of the sun, and the left is 
for Melka d Anhura, for silver is the metal of the moon 
(p. 36). 3 But we say that Melka Ziwa and Melka d An- 
hura are one, though some way they are two. When my 
father, Mulla Khidhr, was about to die, he said, 'The 
time has come for me to put on my rastaV and was 
joyful at the approach of death. When he had been 
washed, and had put it on, he sat up and shortly afterward 
died, willingly. 


1. In the G.R. left, 3rd fragment, Ruha urges Hawa (Eve) to bewail 
the dead Adam. 'Who hath forsaken thee, that thou sittest calmly here and 
dost not complain ?' and Ruha and her liliths begin to wail for the dead and 
to reproach Eve, saying, 'Her friends despise a noble woman who does not 
raise the death-wail for her husband !' Hibil Ziwa then appears to Eve and 
accuses her of 'foolishness instigated by the planets', and when Ruha again 
incites her to weep, she refuses to do so, but praises Manda d Hiia instead. 

Death wailing is general amongst the women of Iraq, who raise long 
shrill cries the moment the breath is out of the body. Neighbours hurry 
in to add their lamentations to those of the inmates of the house. 

2. Because both died with desire to live, and therefore cling to the earth 
as harmful ghosts. The skandola is to prevent them from claiming others. 
Cf. Babylonian exorcisms of the ghosts of women who have died in child- 
bed, and the Indian conception that they are actually maleficent beings. 
The Arabs of Iraq seem to have no such superstition: though, according to 
Doughty, nomad women take the cry of the owl to be the wail of a mother 
dead in childbed. In the cases mentioned, the bridegroom has the skandola 
placed on his finger, the woman has it hung round her neck. 

3. Dimeshqi says of the Harranian Sabians that they attribute a metal 
to every planet. 'And gold . . . belongs to the sun as regards colour and 
qualities and nobility . . . the Sabians believe that silver is the moon's 
portion.' (Chw. S.) 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


I WILL tell you how I saw a melka for the first time. I was 
about fourteen years of age. Our house was of reeds, and 
before it was an even level of beaten mud (tof) like your 
playing-court (i.e. Badminton court). My father liked 
it to be kept clean and the river, edged with grass and 
reeds, ran before the house. It was a clean, sweet place. 

Of the Power to see Spirits 367 

It was the time of a feast, the Dehwa Shishlam Rabba, 
dedicated to one of the great melki whose name is Shishlam 
Rabba. On that day and the night preceding it, the gates 
of the world of light are opened wide. The Moslems know 
that there is such a night, but they do not know, as we do, 
when it takes place. The feast falls after the ripening of 
the dates. 

My father used to rise early at dawn to pray. That 
day as it was a feast, a happy day, I rose at dawn like my 
father. The sun was not yet up when I went out, and my 
father was at the river, for he had not finished his prayers. 
I saw on the smooth space before the house a being stand- 
ing with his staff (margna) on his shoulder, praying to- 
wards the north. He was shining and very white. 

I ran to my mother, who was still sleeping, and roused 
her and said to her, 'My mother ! who is that praying before 
the house?' But he had not been praying aloud, no voice 
had been audible. 

She said, 'No one! Don't be afraid, there is no one!' 

I said, 'Yes, there is some one wearing a new white rasta.' 
I returned again to look and he turned himself and gazed 
at me, and light seemed to come from his face. He was 
beautiful ! Of great beauty ! And then, I saw nothing more ! 

When I went to my mother again, she said to me, 'That 
must have been a natri, the guardian spirit of our house, 
do not fear!' 

My father then came up from the river and I went to 
him and told him what I had seen, saying, 'One came here 
in appearance like a darwlsji^ wearing white clothes. I 
went to call my mother, and when I returned again, he 
looked at me and disappeared.' 

My father said, 'Why did you not come for me? I 
would have spoken with him. That was a Guardian, and 
there was no cause for fear: he is very good!' And my 
father was sad and began to pray. When he had finished 
his prayer, my father looked happy and said to me, 'You 
are like our family, you see, you uncover, you see spirits. 
Whenever you see one, call me, so that I may speak with 

368 Legends, Magic, and Folk-tor 

My father's words remained in my men 
saw anything, I always told him. 

Another time I saw one of the sjuviahi. 

Shaikh Joda's sister, Qurtasah, used to w< 
made me an *abayah. I used to hang this cloa 
was very fond, in a locked room in my g 
Shaikh Mahy's, house. I went one day to ha 
ten hours of the day. The place was old a 
dark. I entered it and went to throw my f abt 
There was a high table in the heel of the room 
onions and gourds were stored, and they i; 
laban (curds) on it. I looked, and I saw o; 
spirit about a foot high one of the shiviahi 
and very ugly. I said to him, my father havir 
not be afraid, 'What are you?' He shook hi 

My cousin (bint khalatT) was with me in tj 
name was Ileywa. I cried to her, 'Come! I 
is a sjnviahi !' 

I mounted on a jawan (tall, wooden r 
pounding rice) and she was at the other end 
I said to her, 'Give me a stick (chimagfi)^ s< 
strike it and take it to show my father !' For I 
and did not understand, and wished to tn 

She reached me a chimagh^ and I hit at it, 
reach it. She said 'Hit it on the head and 
when you have killed it!' But it escaped me 

I went to my father, who was sitting work 
him what I had seen, and how the sjdviahi ha 
when I tried to kill it. 

He said, 'What were you about! That 
behaviour! That shiviahi was probably a 
house and so did not harm you, but, if it h 
it might have killed you ! ' 

I began to be afraid, and I never put mn 
room again. I would not enter it. In our 
myrtle-tree growing in the yard, which m 
planted. One day, I saw the sjnviahi sitting 
myrtle-tree. I began to cry, 'Father, father 

/ f 'oik-lore 

i my memory and if I 


used to weave, and she 
g this cloak, of which I 
i in my grandfather's, 
; day to hang it there at 
was old and large and 
DW my f aba y on a rope. 1 
>f the room, upon which 
ind they used to make . 
d I saw on the table a 
he shiviahi very small 
ather having bidden me 
e shook his head. 
th me in the room : her 
'Come! Look! There 

wooden receptacle for 
other end of the room. 
MmagQj so that I may 
ier!' For I was ignorant 
>hed to treat it like an 

I hit at it, but could not 
head and let me see it 
iscaped me and fled. 
tting working, and told 
shiviahi had escaped me 

it! That was very bad 
obably a keeper of the 
but, if it had not been, 

put my *ata in that 
t. In our house was a 
which my father had 
iahi sitting beneath the 
icr, father! Come, this 


is he!' My father sa 
of the Life) and do 
My aunt said, '1 
do him harm. I mi 

My father said, '. 

They wrote me a 
my bosom, I was nc 
and happy. 

i . Clothes-pegs and wj 
not in wear are thrown ovi 

2. A talismanic scroll, 1 
by the narrator of the abo\ 
Sam who died 150 years a 
been 130 years, for he was 
revered. He loved flowers 
carrying a sword and a s 
Shaikh, and so many cons 
voked in a curious way. I 
a Subbi whispers, 'Rabbej 
rise !' (Rabbey Sam atki m 
and takes his leave of his c 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar 


THE Persians wrote 
history is not the tru 
story and have told i 

Rustam, 1 of whos 
was of Afghanistan. 
he fared forth on his 
he loved the chase, 1 
other game, and live 
was soft, the air wa 
wilderness. His hor: 
intelligent, and unc 
obeyed his lightest 
Rustam took the br 


ry and if I 

ve, and she 

of which I 

it there at 
i large and 
on a rope. 1 
upon which 
to make 
the table a 
-very small 

bidden me 

room: her 
ok ! There 

eptacle for 
f the room, 
that I may 
fas ignorant 
t it like an 

it could not 
;t me see it 
ind fled, 
ig, and told 
escaped me 

is very bad 
eper of the 
d not been, 

aba in that 
touse was a 

father had 
beneath the 

Come, this 


Of the Pew. 

is he!' My father said, 'Sa^ 

of the Life) and do not be 
My aunt said, 'The boy 

do him harm. I must wril 


My father said, 'Aye, w: 
They wrote me a zraztt 

my bosom, I was no longer 

and happy. 


1 . Clothes-pegs and wardrobes ; 
not in wear are thrown over a rope, 

2. A talismanic scroll, kept in a c 
by the narrator of the above story, s 
Sam who died 150 years ago, or m< 
been 130 years, for he was of great \ 
revered. He loved flowers, and the; 
carrying a sword and a spade. H 
Shaikh, and so many consulted hir 
voked in a curious way. If a visitoi 
a Subbi whispers, 'Rabbey Sam ! b 
rise !' (Rabbey Sam athi maharra us 
and takes his leave of his own voliti 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


THE Persians wrote of this 
history is not the true one. 
story and have told it from 
Rustam, 1 of whose stren 
was of Afghanistan. One d 
he fared forth on his horse u 
he loved the chase, he hunl 
other game, and lived upo 
was soft, the air was full < 
wilderness. His horse, Rak 
intelligent, and understooc 
obeyed his lightest comn 
Rustam took the bridle fr 


the Power to see Spirits 369 

said, 'Say to it, "Ushma ad Hei" (Name// 
o not be afraid.' 

'The boy is frightened lest the shiviahi 
nust write him a zrazta' (see pp. 25- 

'Aye, write him one. I have no time ! ' 
5 a zrazta, and when I had put it into 
no longer afraid. I was free from alarm 

wardrobes are not used in reed-dwellings. Clothes 
over a rope, as described here. 

!, kept in a case and worn. I was presented with one 

Dove story, said to have been written by one Rabbey 

s ago, or more. His age at death is reputed to have 

vas of great strength. This man's memory is greatly 

ers, and they say he still works amongst the flowers, 

spade. He lived at a place called Maidan esh- 

nsulted him that he became rich. His name is in- 

If a visitor is 'heavy' and prolongs a tedious visit, 

3ey Sam ! bring a spade and sword and make him 

/ maharra usiwirra aqmihi!} and the visitor gets up 

is own volition. 

3ar Anhar. 


>te of this in the Shah Nameh, but their 
:rue one. Only we Subba know the true 
d it from father to son. It is this, 
tose strength and fame you have heard, 
n. One day, for the sake of the venture, 
is horse until he reached Turkestan. As 
;, he hunted gazelle, zahmur^ birds, and 
ived upon what he killed. The breeze 
was full of the scent of flowers of the 
orse, Rakhash (Mandaean 'horse'), was 
nderstood his master so well that he 
jst command and loved him dearly, 
bridle from his head and said to him 

370 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

(one day), 'Go, eat! The grass and herbage are wholesome 
here and I wish to sleep!' 

Then he slept, Rustam, for the air was sweet, and 
Rakhash went to graze. 

When he awoke from his sleep Rustam called his horse, 
but the horse came not, and though he sought him he 
found him not, for the animal had been stolen. His heart 
was straitened and his mind troubled, for Rakhash was 
very dear to him, being no ordinary horse, but a foal 
begotten by a sea-stallion, who had come up out of the 
sea and covered a mare which had been tethered near by 
on the shore. 2 No horse bore Rustam so well as Rakhash ! 

Rustam went to the king of Turkestan and said to him, 
'If you do not give me back my horse, which your people 
enticed away, I will kill you and your soldiers.' For 
Rustam knew that the people of Turkestan understand 
the speech of horses, and indeed they had enticed 
Rakhash away by smooth speeches, promising him sweet 
water and rich grass. 

The king of Turkestan spoke him fair, knowing that 
Rustam was very strong, and said to him, 'Be pleased to 
be our guest! Drink and rest! Please Allah, your horse 
will be found!' 

Rustam entered and sat and drank the wine which they 
offered him. Then they gave him food and a room in which 
he might sleep by himself. 3 Then they told him, 'Your 
horse has been taken by the people of Slstan !' 

Rustam left them, and going to Slstan, he sought his 
horse there, but the people of that place said to him, 'Do 
not be wroth with us, your horse is not with us. The King 
of Chin has it." 

Then Rustam fared to Chin, and came to the castle of 
the king of Chin. Before it was a fountain called the 'Spring 
of Pearls'. A breeze blew sweetly, and trees and flowers 
grew beside the fountain giving perfume to the breeze. 
He lay down and slept by the pool, which was near the 
path that led to the castle. 

Now the daughter of the King of Chin was a sand- 
diviner ('arafaf tidhrab ramf), and took omens in the sand, 

The Stmurgh: the True History of Rust am 371 

and she had seen written in the sand that she should belong 
to no man but Rustam he only amongst men. It was her 
custom to descend daily to the Spring of Pearls to bathe 
there, and this day also she went. She took off her clothes, 
went down naked into the water, and washed herself. 
Then she was aware that some one amongst the flowers 
was gazing at her, and quickly she loosed her hair, so that 
it fell about her like a cloak ^abayah). She thought that it 
must be Rustam, for she knew in her heart that the eyes 
were his. She went near him and saluted him and said, 
'Are you seeking for Rakhash?' He asked her, 'How did 
you guess?' She replied, 'You are Rustam, I know it!' 

Now the girl was young and sweet and had refused 
many suitors saying, 'I will take as my man only Rustam!' 

She said now to Rustam, 'If you will take me, I can find 
Rakhasji for you and will bring him to you!' 

He looked at her and loved her, and said, 'I will take 
you ! I am glad in truth to do so !' 

She said to him, 'Come! You must be my father's 
guest.' And she led him to her father, who greeted 
Rustam courteously, saying, 'Peace be on you!' Rustam 
answered, 'On you the peace!' Then the king of Chin 
said to him in Pehlawani, 'Welcome! I am delighted to 
have Rustam as my guest!' 

Rustam asked him for his horse, for he knew that the 
king of Chin had bought it from the people of Slstan, who 
had stolen it. 

The king denied, saying, 'Your horse is not with us!' 

Then Rustam was angered, and said, 'I have certainty 
that my horse is with you, and if you do not give him up, 
I shall slay you and your men of war.' 

The king said to himself, 'We must use policy!', and 
to Rustam he said, 'We will look for the horse : we will ask 
where it is. Do not be angry! You are our guest and we 
wish you well. I will try to find your horse, and, if Allah 
wills, it w.'ll be found.' 

So Rustam abode with them three days, and then he 
came to the king and said, 'I love your daughter! Give 
her to me!' 

372 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The king replied, 'Gladly, for a better man than you 
there is not in the world ! And my daughter has yearned 
for you for a long while.' 

The king of Chin was well satisfied, and Rustam and 
the girl were happy. They called an 'alim and drew up the 
marriage contract, and the merrymakings lasted for seven 
days. Guests were entertained, and night was turned into 
day, for there were lights in all the rooms. 

Then Rustam asked his bride, 'Where is my horse ?' 

She replied, 'Fear not, I have it!' 

The princess had a mare, and, just as she had seen 
Rustam and loved him, so the mare had seen Rakhash and 
loved the stallion. Now the mare had a foal by Rakhash, 
and the princess had stallion and foal to show to her. 
husband. When the horse saw his master, he galloped to 
him and put his nose on his shoulder, and Rustam kissed 
his horse and fondled it, for he loved it greatly. 

Now Rustam had knowledge of the Sun, whom they 
named Yazdan Pak, or Khur, and he was the Lord whom 
they worshipped. Rustam had much secret knowledge, 
and in our histories it is written that whatever strength 
Rustam asked from the Sun, he received, according to the 
hour of the Sun. From the morning to noonday his 
strength was great, but in the afternoon his strength 
declined. Before the time of which I am telling you, 
Rustam had been in the wilderness, amongst the moun- 
tains, and in places where there were diggings, and it was 
during this time that he had acquired this knowledge. 
So great was the strength which God granted him that 
two thousand warriors could do nothing against him. Aye, 
the Pehlawan were wise, but he was wiser than them all ! 
The Pehlawan were masters of knowledge, for if they 
prayed, no one was able to vanquish them because of the 
power given to them by Yazdan Pak. It happened that 
sometimes a king or a chief who came with an army to 
fight them was unable even to approach them because of 
this power. (If one of our people has gone deeply into the 
secret doctrines, he unveils, unveils, unveils, until d1\ he 
comes upon the Most Secret Doctrine which was theirs 

The Stmurgh: the True History of "Rust am 373 

also. But such a man, if he speaks to you, though he may 
answer your questions correctly, will be silent about that 
inner knowledge. He is a man who does not chatter about 
what he sees. If I were to see a melka or an *uthra^ I should 
be delighted and might speak of it; but he says nothing of 
what he sees. He knows his Way, and he walks therein. 

The Pehlawan religion and ours followed the same 
road at first, but we discovered new light and followed it, 
whilst they kept on as before. In our religion, secret 
knowledge must not be imparted: each one must attain 
to it by himself. God opens a way to those who are fitted 
to walk in it. Most of the people in this world have 
worldly knowledge, but they are sleeping. Sleeping! 
They walk about as if asleep, and the enlightened ones 
know it. But, if God sees a seeker after truth, He can wake 
him up.) 

Well! Rustam went to the king of Chin and said, 'I 
want to see my father and my people/ The king of Chin 
replied, 'Go, in God's keeping! but leave your wife with 
me, for the way is long and difficult. When your honour 
returns, I will give her to you again/ 

Rustam had an armlet set with precious stones upon 
which talismanic writings were inscribed. He understood 
these inscriptions, but no one else, for these writings in 
the rubies and emeralds and diamonds on the armlet were 
secret. He gave this to his wife, saying, 'If you bear me a 
son, put this on his arm. If you bear me a daughter, and 
she is ever in need, she has only to show this to a rich 
merchant, and he will furnish her with whatever she wants, 
for the armlet is worth a kingdom.' 

Rustam journeyed away and returned to his people, 
leaving the armlet with his wife. The girl was pregnant, 
and, when her time was come, she brought forth a boy. 
The boy was a fine child, and when he was three he could 
wrestle with boys older than himself and overthrow them, 
for he was strong like his father. When he was seven, he 
was so good a horseman that not even the Pehlewan 
could match him in horsemanship. He was fond of 
riding out into the desert. 

374 Legends, Magic, and oik-lore 

When he asked his mother, 'Mother, where is my 
father? Who is he?' she did not like to tell him that 
Rustam his father had left her, so she said, 'Your grand- 
father is your father does he not love you tenderly?' 
and she bade her father let the boy believe this. But when 
the lad was fifteen, he came to her and constrained her to 
tell him the truth, saying, 'You must tell me now. Who 
was my father?' 

She replied to him, 'What can I tell you but the truth ! 
Your father is Rustam of Afghanistan.' 

When he heard that, the boy went to his grandfather 
and asked for an escort of ten thousand soldiers so that 
he might go and find his father. He rode on the foal sired 
by Rakhash out of his mother's mare. The manner of 
that foal's birth was this: it was so large that its mother 
was unable to bring it into the world, and, as they were 
afraid that it would die, a surgeon came and opened the 
belly of its mother. 4 So it came into the world, and was 
as like its sire as a portrait is like the original. 

The lad had with him an old soldier who remembered 
Rustam well. He took leave of his grandfather and kissed 
him, and his mother kissed him and wept over him, for she 
loved him dearly. The boy embraced her and wept also, 
but said, 'Do not fear ! I shall return !' 

But the mother said, 'O Yazd! 5 I cannot endure to 
let you go, for I desire your face before me morning, noon, 
and night!' 

The youth said, 'And I wish to see my father morning, 
noon, and night, and you also ! I wish to have you both 
together before me, so that we may be glad always.' 

Then he kissed his mother and went away, saying, 'If 
God wills, I will return and bring my father with me.' 
Before he set off, she put the armlet on his arm, saying, 
'If your father sees this, he will know you for his son.' 

He marched away, he and his company, for there were 
ten thousand horsemen with him. When they came to a 
country, the sultan who ruled it gave the lad his allegiance 
and became his vassal. Then they went on, taking soldiers 
from that country with them into the next. So his army 

The Stmurgh: the True History of Rustam 375" 

grew and grew, and every country through which he 
passed was under his hand and he was its liege lord. 

For three years the stripling and his army went on their 
way, conquering and fighting. None could stand before 
their strength. At last they came to the borders of the 
land of Iran. The youth sent to the Shah, saying, 'Give 
me your allegiance, become my vassal, or I shall fight 
with you!' The Shah of Iran knew that Yazd and his 
army had come from the land of Chin conquering the 
countries through which they had passed, and that all 
the kings of those countries had become his vassals, but the 
Shah could not give up his country just for the asking, so 
he prepared to fight. There was a mighty battle, and the 
Pehlewan went against the foreign army, marching into 
combat thousands at a time. The Shah, the Sultan of 
Iran, sent then for Rustam, for he feared that Yazd would 
prevail and take his throne from him. 

In the morning, Rustam came galloping on his horse 
to the Shah and the Shah said, 'You must fight with this 
prince and prevent him from seizing my throne.' 

Rustam waited until the night came, and then he 
disguised himself as a darwisJi (and the dress that he wore 
was white and like our rasta\ and he asked of Yazdan Pak 
that he should be invisible, so that he might pass un- 
noticed through the camp. It was so, and he passed 
through the camps and no man saw him, not a soldier of 
all the thousands. There was a full moon and the light 
was bright. Four ranks of soldiers stood sentinel by 
Yazd's tent, and at the four pomegranates (i.e. four knobs 
of the tent-poles) of Yazd's pavilion four guards were 
posted. Rustam passed them all, but, though they heard 
footsteps and gazed, they saw no one, because Rustam was 
invisible by the power of Yazdan Pak. 

Rustam climbed the tent rope to the top of the pavilion 
and there he cut an opening with his dagger and descended 
into the tent. The tent was lit by the effulgence of a large 
pearl which was lying by Yazd as he slept, and this was a 
durrahf a present which Yazd was bringing for his grand- 
father Zal, Rustam's father, from his other grandfather, 

376 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

the king of Chin. This Zal was also a man of strength and 
wisdom, for Rustam's people were all distinguished for 
wisdom and strength. They lived in the wilderness, 
disliking the noise and fret of men, for they loved to 
breathe the sweet air and to behold the face of Yazdan 
Pak. They were people of knowledge. 

When Rustam had descended and gazed upon the lad, 
he saw how handsome he was, and began to love him. His 
heart beat strongly, and he was deeply moved by a feeling 
of affection. The boy was sleeping, and it had been his 
first intention to wake him from sleep, kill him, and go. 
That had been his first thought. But, when he beheld 
him sleeping, he imagined he saw the full moon before 
him, and remained bemused, gazing at his beauty. He 
said to himself, 'I cannot rouse this Pehlawani from his 
sleep to kill him! I cannot slay him!' So he stuck his 
dagger into the pillow on which the lad slept, as a sign that 
he had been able to kill him but had refrained. Then he 
left him and went out. 

In the morning the lad woke and saw the dagger in the 
pillow beside him and the rent in the tent. He called his 
generals and officers and showed them the rent and the 
dagger saying, 'Come! Look! What is this? Why did a 
man enter my tent and refrain from killing me ? Why did 
not the soldiers slay him ? How was it that they allowed 
a man to enter my tent?' 

They questioned the guards, saying, 'Saw ye nothing? 
Saw ye no man ?' They replied, 'We heard a noise as of 
one passing, but looked and saw nothing.' The prince 
said to his advisers, 'What say you to this, O Wuzara' ?' 

An old, wise wazlr answered him, 'He who came must 
have been a master of knowledge which enabled him to 
be invisible.' ^ 

And the lad was troubled about this strange thing that 
had happened. When he went out and looked at the tents 
of the enemy, he saw amongst them a new, green tent, and 
he remembered that his mother had told him that his 
father used a green pavilion. He mounted his horse and 
galloped up on to a hill whence he could see all the tents. 

The Simurgh: the True History of Rust am 377 

Rustam put on his disguise again, and mounted his 
horse and galloped to see who was the horseman who stood 
watching on the hill. When he came up to him, the lad 
saluted his father and said to him, 'Is not your honour 

Rustam 's heart went out to the boy and he felt a great 
tenderness for him. But he replied, 'Rustam! It is 
difficult for you to see him! I am a darwishY 

The boy said, 'If you be Rustam, I beg you to tell me 
with truth.' 

But Rustam, fearing an ambush and knowing that they 
sought his life, denied that he was Rustam, and the more 
he denied, the deeper the love that he felt for the lad 
and his eyes betrayed him, for tears flowed from them. 

Now the soldier who knew Rustam had been taken 
prisoner and brought to the Shah, and he had told the Shah 
that the stranger who led the invading army was Rustam's 
son. When he heard that, the Shah was afraid, 'for', 
thought he, 'if Rustam and his son be reconciled, they 
will be stronger than us all, and will take my throne from 
me! Let one kill the other!' and he bade the old soldier 
hold his peace and said no word of what he had learnt 
from him. 

Meantime, Rustam cried to the boy, 'I am not Rustam! 
I am a darwish^ \ Go back to your people, for, if Rustam 
comes, he will kill you!' 

The lad, beholding the noble face of the darwlsh^ could 
not believe, and still insisted, saying, 'Thou art Rustam! 

Rustam said, 'Never believe it! I am not Rustam! 
If you think that I do not speak the truth and want to do 
battle, we will wrestle together!' 

The lad answered him, 'Good! Dismount!' 

Then the gaze of the armies, and of the Shah, and of 
Zal, who was with him, fell upon them. The lad's army 
stood round the one side of the plain and the Shah's on the 
other, to watch the combat. 

Rustam and the lad dismounted and began to wrestle, 
each striving to throw his opponent to the ground. 
4363 3 c 

37 8 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

Now Zal the previous night had dreamt a dream in 
which he Jbad seen Rustam with his right arm cut off. 

The two began to wrestle and to struggle. The lad was 
very strong, and he gripped his father and threw him. 
Then he drew his dagger, but the Pehlewan who stood by 
said, 'No ! It is not custom to kill at the first throw ! The 
loser must be thrown three times!' 

When Rustam fell, Zal, his father, was alarmed, fearing 
that the youth would conquer and seize the kingdom. 
But the ruler of Iran laughed to himself and said within 
his heart, 'Who but Rustam's son could have thrown 
Rustam?' He kept counsel, however, hoping that both 
would be destroyed. 

Zal saw the Shah smile, and asked him, 'Why do you 
smile when we are downcast ?' 

The Shah replied, 'I laughed because God always 
creates a stronger than the strong!' 

Then Zal went to Rustam and said, 'Last night I had 
an evil dream about you. I saw in my dream that your 
right arm was cut off!' And he urged him, saying, 'Rule 
yourself! Be on your guard!' 

Rustam went to a spring, which, like the other, was 
called 'Fountain of Pearls', and he took off his robe and 
washed it, and abluted himself, standing towards the 
north and praying with his face turned to the right side, 
in the direction of the sun, where Shamish and the ten 
melki with him (p. 76) rule the day. Then he put on his 
newly washed rasta and he prayed to Melka Ziwa and 
Yazdan Pak. Yazdan Pak is the Pehlawi name for 
Shamish, for the Pehlawani worshipped in the ancient 
fashion of the Subba. 

And this is what Rustam prayed: 'Give me power from 
thyself to throw this lad to the ground!' For those who 
know receive such strength from the sun that they can 
wade through earth as if it were water. 

The lad Yazd said to those about him, 'Why do not 
they send Rustam against me ? Why do not the Pehlewan 
send me Rustam, the hero, so that I may wrestle with 

The Simurgh: the True History of Rustam 379 

The Shah of the Iranians laughed again, and those with 
the boy said, 'Do you laugh at us ?' 

The Shah said to them, 'You cannot throw this man 
any more, for when he has prayed he is invincible, and 
whatever feat he tries to perform, he is able to do it.' 

Rustam returned to the combat, and his breast was 
high and he walked confidently. He said, 'Be pleased to 
come on! Let us wrestle! Let us match ourselves one 
against the other!' 

Then they descended into the plain and closed together. 
The father seized the son, and hurled him to the ground 
with such force that his belly was rent. 

Meanwhile Zal, uneasy because of his dream, had begun 
to recite spells, and put a Simurgh's feather into the fire 
so as to force the Simurgh to appear. 

After he had been hurled to the ground by his father, 
the youth opened his eyes and said, 'Why have you slain 
me thus quickly? Did you not say that the victor must 
throw his opponent three times before killing him ? Why 
this trickery? Have you no fear of my father? When 
he hears how you slew me, he will kill you though you 
were a bird of the air or deep in the earth ! He will find 
you out, wherever you be! Where will you hide from 

Rustam said to him, 'Who is your father ?' 

Answered the youth, 'My father is Rustam!' 

Said Rustam, 'Thy father is Rustam ?' 

Replied the lad, 'Aye, and this is his token and sign', 
and he showed him the armlet. 

Then his father seized upon a large stone and beat his 
head with it, for he was mad with grief. Seeing this, Zal 
wondered, 'Why does Rustam beat his head?' and the 
soldiers who beheld it were amazed. Zal, wondering 
greatly, continued to read his spells. He approached 
Rustam, who cried to him, 'I have slain my son!' 

Zal said, 'This is what I saw in my dream! But the 
Shah has a salve which will heal any wound!' 

They bore the lad to the Shah and said, 'Give us some 
of your salve!' 

380 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

The Shah replied, 'There is none left, I have none!' 
for he did not wish to give it to them. 

As they were thus, the Slmurgh flew to Zal and she 
said to Rustam, 'What, Rustam! Hast killed thy son ?' 

Rustam cried to her, 'I am thy suppliant! I am thy 
suppliant! Find me a means of escape from my deed!' 

Now the Slmurgh has this gift from God, that, if she 
licks a wound, it will heal. Just as the Ayar (pure, un- 
polluted air) comes from God, her breath comes from the 
Breath of Life, and her breath kept the soul of the boy in 
his body. The strength that she gave him was from the 
Realm of Light, and he returned to himself, and said to 
her, 'I spoke with my father, but he denied himself ! At 
first I overthrew him, but 'they said it must be three times. 
He went, I know not whither, and when he returned, he 
threw me to the ground and brake my belly.' 

She said to him, 'Thy father's mind was darkened. 
How was it that he knew you not ?' 

The lad said, 'This is from God!' 

The Slmurgh said, 'Do not fear! I will heal you and 
you will be as strong again as before, but you must not 
trouble or be anxious.' 

Rustam said to the Slmurgh, 'I am thy suppliant! Kill 
me, and let the lad be cured !' and he called to the Pehlewan 
to slay him. 

The Slmurgh said to Yazd, 'Fear not! You shall be 
cured, but Rustam must carry you for a whole year on his 
head. Every Sunday I will come to give you strength so 
that you may live without food.' 

After an hour, the lad lay like one asleep. His blood 
worked. (See, what knowledge the Slmurgh had from 
God and what marvels she could perform !) 

During that hour he was able to converse, and talked 
with his grandfather and told him how he had come, 
saying, 'What will my mother think ! For when I met my 
father, it was thus that he treated me, and it was she who 
sent me hither. And from Chin to Iran every nation is 
under my hand 3 ' 

For an hour he was able to talk thus, and then he fell, 

The Slmurgh: the True History of Rust am 381 

as it were, into a deep sleep. Zal wept, but the boy could 
speak no more. The Simurgh said to him, 'Do not weep ! 
Do not be fearful, the boy will recover after a year!' 

Said Zal, 'From now to a year is a long time! How 
shall I endure being parted from him for so long a period ?' 

Rustam said to his father, 'If you talk like this, I shall 
kill myself! It was God's will that it should be thus, 
though it was hard. Gladly will I carry him on my head!' 

They put the youth in a box. Rustam's daughters 
came to kiss him and said, 'We shall see him well in a year, 
perhaps!' And the Slmurgh comforted them, saying, 'Do 
not weep!' For the Slmurgh is a spirit, not an ordinary 
bird, and her power comes from Simat-Hei (Simat- 
Hiia 'Treasure of Life', see p. 27), who is with Melka 

Rustam placed the box on his head and said, 'I will 
carry him as long as I have strength, longer than a year 
if need be !' He put on his rasta and went into the wilder- 
ness, carrying the box on his head. The Slmurgh, after 
she had licked the youth all over, flew away, bidding 
Rustam meet her on Sunday. Rustam fared forth into the 
desert, carrying the boy on his head, and lived upon what 
he found there, on locusts, honey, fruit, and roots. 7 

The Slmurgh had she not said that she would come 
every Sunday? fulfilled her promise. There is a region 
called at-Tib 8 near the river Karun, and in that place, 
which once belonged to the Nasurai and Mandai, there 
are no harmful things such as scorpions, snakes, or 
mosquitoes. The air is pure there, and there is a charm on 
the place which keeps all harmful creatures away. The 
Arabs know it, and their *ulama speak of this place of 
healing with praise. Its name was not formerly at-Tib 
but was called 'Matha d Nasurai'. Now before she 
flew away the Slmurgh had bidden Rustam meet her 
there, in that spot, for the prayers and devotions of the 
Nasurai had made the place pure and had banished all 
evil things and all creatures of the Darkness from it. He 
went, therefore, and she came and licked the boy with her 
tongue and gave him strength from the Ayat Hiwel Ziwa. 

382 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

Rustam looked at the Slmurgh, and when she said, 'Do 
.not fear! He will be cured!' his heart was lightened. 

So it was a year, and the Slmurgh came every Sunday 
to that place, and licked the boy and gave him strength. 
When the end of the year came, the Slmurgh was very 
glad and joyful, and Rustam's heart rejoiced when she 
said to him, 'To-day your son will be as well as he was 
before, and better!' 

She came, and she prayed to God with her wings out- 
spread. She prayed to the *uthri and to the melki and to 
Shamish. Then she spread her wings on the lad and 
gazed at him. Z>/, d^ <#, di\ softly, softly, his soul took 

Rustam looked like one in a dream, with his arms 
upraised, glad, but gazing. 

Di\ the lad received his soul, and his paghra (earthly 
body) began to function. He was stronger than before. 
His eyes began to sparkle and to see, and he began to 
smile into the face of the Slmurgh. He sneezed and sat 
up, and in that sneeze his soul returned to him wholly; 
for, lady, if a person falls ill and his soul is but lightly 
attached to him, and he sneezes, his soul will come back 
to him. 

Yazd sat up and, just as a serpent sloughs her skin, he 
cast his,' and came out clean and beautiful. He rose and 
fell before the Slmurgh and kissed her, and said, 'I am 
very grateful to you for keeping me in this world!' 

Many persons had gathered together that day to see 
this miracle worked, and from that time the place was 
called at-Tib. To this day it is thus called. 

Rustam and Yazd went to Zal, who seized the lad and 
embraced him, asking him, 'Are you well ?' and the boy 
replied, 'I am well!' 

For a whole year there was rejoicing, and by common 
wish the lad was made Shah, and seven treasures were 
given to be spent in charity as a thankoffering for his 

Now, news had reached the lad's mother that Rustam 
had killed his son. She was full of black thought, and she 

The Stmurgh: the True History of Rust am 383 

took one hundred thousand soldiers from her father and 
rode with them until she reached the borders of Rustam's 
country. Rustam received news that an army was ap- 
proaching to take the kingdom, and he disguised himself 
as a darwtsJi and went early one morning to see what their 
leader was like. 

His wife wore a veil which covered her completely 
except for her eyes for such was their custom and she 
sat on her horse. He knew her not, but as soon as she 
saw him she knew him for her husband in spite of his 
disguise, and tried to strike at his head with a mace. 
Rustam said to her, 'Does one Pehlawani strike another 
without notice and without cause? It is not done!' 

She replied, 'I have cause to strike you!' and he recog- 
nized that she was not a man by her voice, and said to her, 
'You are a woman, and not a Pehlawani, and what is the 
reason that you try to strike me and kill me ?' 

She began to weep and was unable to lift her hand 
further against him, for she loved him greatly. 

He brought his horse close to her and she said to him, 
4 You killed Yazd!' 

He answered, 'Do not weep ! He lives ! He lives, and 
all is well!' 

She uncovered her face and said, 'He is dead : how can 
he be well ? Where is he ?' 

The Pehlwamya went to bring Yazd. 

When they said to him, 'Your mother is here with an 
army and she wishes to see you', he galloped swiftly to 
her, for he longed to see her. She saw him as he was still 
far off, and galloped to him, and then both dismounted 
and rushed together. She seized him in her arms and they 
embraced each other. 

She cried, 'Are you really Yazd and not a dream ?' 

He said, 'I, myself, and no dream!' 

Then Zal came riding in a howdah on an elephant, and 
all mounted into the howdah and returned; Rustam, his 
son and all of them. The princess kissed Zal's hand and 
the old man was delighted with her. All were happy t very 
happy how happy! 

384 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 


1 . Rustam is a hero of the sun-type, corresponding to Samson, Gilgamesh, 
Herakles, and St. George. The horse is probably the horse of the sun 
chariot. The sacrifice of white horses is mentioned by Herodotus as 
practised on solemn occasions by the Magians. The horse of St. George is 
probably the sun-horse. The sun-character of Rustam is plainly indicated 
in this tale. 

2. See Folk Tales of'Iray, note on sea-horses, p. 303. 

3. A mark of distinction. The ordinary guest lies down with the men 
of the family to sleep. 

4. A similar Caesarean operation is recorded in the Skahnameh as 
performed on the advice of the Simurgh upon Rudabeh, Rustam's mother. 

5. I interrupted here by saying, 'This story is well known, but in the 
Persian story Rustam's son is called Sohrab'. Hirmiz replied, 'The Persians 
tell the story one way, we another, and ours is the true story. Besides, 
Sohrab was Rustam's son by another wife, for Rustam loved many women. 
He was very strong, and wished to breed sons like himself.' 

6. Durrah: Hirmiz commented, 'This kind of pearl is more lustrous 
than the /#'/', and it was found in ancient times in the sea'. Possibly a 
crystal. Najaf crystal is called durr Najaf. 

7. Solitary banishment to the desert and a diet of wild herbs seems to have 
been a punishment or ordeal inflicted by the Essenes (cf. Josephus's account 
of them). It may have been a feature of an Iranian cult. It is certainly 
no coincidence that both John and Jesus spent time in solitude in the desert. 

8. at-Tib. Mention of a settlement of Nasurai in at-Tib is made in the 
Haran Gawaitha. See p. 8. 

In Mu ( a/jam al-Eulddn Yaqut writes of at-Tib, 'The merchant Da'ud 
bin Ahmad bin Sa'idat-Tlbl told me the following: "It is known amongst 
us that at-Tib was one of the residences of Seth, son of Adam, and that the 
inhabitants of this town never ceased to confess the religion of Seth" (i.e. 
of the Sabians) "until the advent of Islam, when they became Muslims." ' 
He also mentions wonderful talismans at at-Tib, which prevented snakes, 
lizards, ravens, and such creatures from approaching it. According to 
Yaqut, at-Tib was a small town between Wasit and Khuzistan. It is 
thought to be the modern Sur, near the police-post Kuwait. See p. 8. 

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 

Petermann tells a similar story, based on the Shahndmeh (Reisen, p. 109). 
In his version Rustam carries his son in a box on his head, but the ending 

The Simurgh plays no part in the story of Rustam and Sohrab in the 
Shahnamek, but the bird appears earlier in the poem to nourish Zal, when 
he was cast forth by his father Sam, to perish on the mountain of Al-Burz. 
The Slmurgh promises her foundling that she (or he) will come to his help 

The Stmurg/i: the True History of Rustam 385" 

whenever he burns one of her (or his) feathers. This Zal does when 
Rustam is grievously wounded by Isfendiyar, who had previously slain 
another Slmurgh. The Slmurgh, thus summoned, sucks Rustam's wounds 
and heals them by passing one of her feathers over them. The Slmurgh 
plays a considerable part in Mandaean folk-stories. See Legend XXIX. 


THEY say that Hirmiz Shah will return one day to rule 
over Iran. He is ancient, of the time of Adam, and to this 
day there is a mountain called the Kuh Hormuzd Shah in 
Iran, named after him. I will tell you what my father told 
me about him. 

In the time of Hirmiz Shah there was such justice that 
there was no wrongdoing. There was no strife and no 
war. None were rich and none were poor, for all were 
equal. 1 Hirmiz Shah had ruled wisely for eighty years, 
and when he saw that there was no trouble, that every one 
was behaving reasonably, and that each man lived in 
peace with his neighbour, he said, 'These people have no 
need of a ruler. I will go on a journey and the government 
will look after itself.' 

So he clad himself in the robe of a darwtsh^ mounted 
his horse, and rode from city to city and wilderness to 
wilderness, but lingered not in the cities, for he loved the 
wilderness best. One day, just before dawn, he was riding 
in the open country when he became aware of a breeze of 
great sweetness, rarely good it was! He breathed it in 
and said, 'This is wonderful air!' and he rode on and on 
until he saw in the midst of the desert a huge castle. He 
could see no gate to it, and though he went round and 
round the wall, he found no entrance. But when he 
looked at the wall, he saw upon it an inscription in the 
shape of a gate a talisman. From his great reading and 
knowledge of ancient books, he was able to read the talis- 
man, and as soon as he had read it the wall opened. He 
entered it, and it closed behind him. 

The place was lit, as it were, from within ; the air was 
perfumed, and the atmosphere was pure, suave, and 
smooth. He found himself in the midst of a courtyard, 

4363 3 D 

386 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

and in the centre of the courtyard was a cistern made 
entirely of turquoise. Now when he entered the place it 
was before dawn, and the sun was not yet up ; yet, such a 
light came from the cistern that it lit the place. In the 
courtyard stood a tree and round the courtyard were many 
rooms. When he looked into them, he saw furniture 
decorated with rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones, 
but saw no living persons, no, not one! Then he ap- 
proached the cistern. In it there was water, level and 
even, but of such cleanliness and purity that it illuminated 
the castle as if it had been living light. He seated himself 
on the edge of the cistern, and when the sun rose the 
water began to rise, and when the sun had fully risen, it 
swirled upwards and took the shape of a tree, but all of 
clear water, and, when he gazed at it, he perceived faces in 
it, like human faces, looking at him from amongst the 
branches, though the tree was of water. His heart began 
to fear and he went to hide himself in one of the rooms 
round the courtyard, when there flew overhead, coming 
from without, three birds, which settled on the trees which 
grew beside the fountain. These birds were of a rare 
beauty, with curved bills like that of a parrot (btbl matu}. 
The tree was like a nabqa (lote-tree^ see pp. 3478) and was 
watered by a channel fed from the fountain, and there 
were smaller trees beside it, nourished from the same 
source. There were no dead leaves beneath the trees, and 
no withered leaves fell from them. 

Presently the birds, which were of such dazzling beauty 
that he had never seen their like, flew down to the cistern 
as if they wished to bathe in it. When they reached it, 
they bowed and said, 'Yukhawar Ziwa, Yukhawar Ziwa, 
Yukhawar Ziwa!' 2 three times. Then they plunged into 
the water, and became immediately three beautiful 
maidens, very young, and of such great sweetness that he 
marvelled, having never seen anything so lovely before. 
He reflected upon the words they had uttered, for 
' Yukhawar Ziwa' is one of the secret names of God, who 
wheels in Light. For we have the belief that he who is 
with the Sun, constantly turns and revolves. Every 

Hirmiz Shah 387 

twenty-eight years the revolutions intensify, and on that 
day men who see tell us that the light revolves with great 
swiftness di^ di dl\ By the power of these revolutions, 
all the souls which are purified issue from the lower 
world of Darkness. The Darkness is unwilling to let them 
come forth, even though they have expiated their un- 
cleanness and are ready to go into the worlds of Light. 
But, by the increased force of the revolutions of light, they 
are drawn up, and the Spirit of Darkness is compelled to 
make them a road, that is, if the purification of the soul is 
complete. If it is still impure, it must remain in the lower 
world yet longer. 

The soul is beloved of God because it is of Him ! Then, 
on Sunday, Hoshaba Rabba (see p. 19$) comes and takes 
these purified souls to Awathur, where Awathur Muzania 
weighs them in the balance. If the soul is pure, the balance 
remains even ; if impure, the scale falls and it must descend 
for further purification. 

When Hirmiz Shah heard the secret name of God from 
these damsels, he wondered. He looked at them and said, 
'What enchantment is this?' The maidens put on ex- 
quisite garments, and entered a room, and said to each 
other, 'There is a smell of man here!' Hirmiz feigned 
sleep, and they came upon him and said, one to the other, 
'This is a greybeard, let us not harm him ! But if he knew 
how to bathe in the fountain, he would recover the strength 
of his youth!' 

The eldest said, 'How did he enter the castle ?' 
The youngest replied, 'He must have read the talisman 
and be an old man of much knowledge. Without doubt, 
we will keep him and guard him in this castle!' 

He had heard all that they said, and opened his eyes. 
They said, 'You have wakened!' and he replied, 'Aye!' 
They said, 'Welcome, Hirmiz Shah!' 
He said to them, 'I should like to bathe in this fountain.' 
They replied, 'Be pleased to do so! Bathe!' 
They brought clean clothes for him, and he entered 
the water and began to bathe, saying 'Yukhawar Ziwa!' 
thrice. Then his soul became light. Heaviness left him, 

388 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

and a feeling of well-being and lightness possessed him 
and a sense of life. Then, as he looked, he saw in the 
fountain something like a Person, sitting in the water and 
gazing at him, with white water falling about him. 

He began to worship in the Siriani tongue, saying, 
'Turn min hei haiasuthkhon, tiabuthkhpn^ tiaruthkhon, 
atramuthkhpn dilkhpn . . .' 3 thus asking the Life to grant 
him life and purity, to pardon his sins and make him clean. 

Then he came out of the water and the girls said to him 
in astonishment, 'Whence have you this knowledge?' 

He replied, 'From my conscience, from God.' 

They said, 'That Person in the water, do you know who 
he is ?' 

He replied, 'I know not, but I see something wonderful ! 
I wish to learn, and, as I am your guest and you are kind 
to me, no doubt you will instruct me.' 

They said, 'We cannot instruct you : you must know of 

It was Sunday. Food and water were brought to them 
without hands, with no one coming or going, for there 
was only himself and the three damsels. 

Presently, he thought he saw> like a flash of lightning, 
he saw! Then he knew the Light and was glad. What- 
ever he wished to be, was ; and if he wished to be lifted up 
from the ground, he was straightway lifted up into the air. 

The damsels were rejoiced and said, 'Blessed One! 
Blessed Hirmiz! Now you are like us!' 

Whenever he wished it, he was lifted up into the air; 
moreover, he could fly as a bird flies, and take the shape 
of a bird. Like his companions, he flew hither and thither 
in the shape of a bird, whither he would, and lived with 
them in the castle always. 

It was Sultan Jlk^ who knew of all this, for he saw 
Hirmiz and the three maidens on a tree and spoke with 
them and learnt what I have told you. Sultan Jlk had 
lore from the Lord of Darkness, whereas Hirmiz and 
his knowledge were of the Light. He was a magician, 
Sultan Jlk, of the West, and he could form soldiers out 
of the air. 

Hirmiz Shah 389 


1. The ideal communistic state of the Mandaeans. See pp. 323, 
325, &c. 

2. Yukabar Ziwa. See p. 281, note 6. 

3 . 'And now, from the Life (I ask) your pity, your healing, your radiance, 
your compassion, yours .' This prayer is one recited towards the end of 
the masiqta. 

4. I have been unable to trace Sultan Jik. 
Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


THERE once lived a man who, besides having knowledge 
of the sun, of Awathur (Abathur\ and of other stars, had 
a special knowledge of Sin. His knowledge was not 
that which is seemly to those who study our religion, but 
was lore pertaining to the forbidden magic of Sin, matters 
into which a pious man should not enter. But his soul 
feared Sin, for if a man begins to study such matters, Sin 
takes possession of his soul, and for this reason it is for- 
bidden to us to seek to enter into the secrets of Sin. 

Now this man had a great longing to behold Sin, and 
was the master of forbidden knowledge and spells. His 
family had always possessed such writings and spells, and 
he said to himself, 'Maku chara\' (There is no help for it !) 

Now there is a certain diwan 2 which, when read, calls 
up the image of Sin before the reader. So this man said, 
'I have knowledge of the stars (i.e. am able to protect 
myself from harm), and I desire to see Sin', and with that 
he began to read the incantation. He began to read it 
at moonrise, that is to say, when Sin came up, and while 
reciting it, he fell asleep. In his sleep, he felt some one 
poking him in the ribs. 

He started awake, crying, 'Who is it?' and gazed about 
him, but no one was there. He began to read again, but 
some one rapped him on the shoulder. Whenever he tried 
to sleep, he was poked or rapped. In a fright he rose and 
began to pray in order to protect himself. But Sin would 

39 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

not allow him to sleep. Then he read holy books to 
protect himself: he read a butha of Melka Ziwa, whom 
Sin fears. 

But every night after that it was the same. Whenever 
the moon rose, he was shaken or nudged and not per- 
mitted to sleep. Sometimes he felt grievously afraid, but 
nevertheless he said to himself, 'How I should like to 
behold Sin! I cannot help it, I desire to see Sin!' 

So he persisted in reading the incantation, and as soon 
as Sin had risen in the sky, whether at midnight or towards 
morning, he was unable to sleep at ease, for he was always 
awakened by touches or shaking. His wakening was 
always sudden and violent. Once he thought he saw 
something above his head. He began to be uneasy, for 
this constant sudden awakening was unpleasant, still, he 
continued to desire to behold Sin. 

One night he read the incantation and fell asleep. He 
dreamt that he saw a shiviahi, with eyes set vertically in 
his face, gazing upon him. And then a thick and strang- 
ling darkness came upon him; he could not move hand 
or foot, and his blood moved weakly in his veins. 

Now when one is oppressed by an incubus or nightmare, 
the only thing to do is to say, l Ta Hiwel ZiwaY and the 
o (the aleph) in the invocation is like an eye and resembles 
the eye of God. If one can say this, heaviness departs. If 
not, one cries out, oppressed by nightmare. 

This man cried out the invocation, and his incubus 
departed from him and he was able to sit up, but he 
was extremely frightened, for he knew that if he had not 
called out the name of God he would have been strangled. 
However, he said, 'Hiwel Ziwa will free me again if I am 
in such danger, and I still long to behold Sin.' 

On the fourteenth night the moon was full. He went 
and plunged into the river and made his prayer (rahmt) 
and put on his rasta^ saying to himself, 'If I am killed in 
this venture, at least I shall be prepared to die!' 

Then he sat down and began to read the incantation of 
Sin. As he read, the power of the moon began to draw 
and drag at him, like a magnet pulls iron. Presently his 

The Man who sought to see Sin, the Moon 391 

head began to swim and he felt drowsy and heavy. Then 
something came and struck him. He woke in a fright. In 
spite of all his heaviness, each time his eyes closed, he was 
awakened thus. 

He went to his house and said to his wife, 'I am heavy 
with sleep ! But if you hear me crying out in my sleep, 
wake me, or I may be killed.' 

He could not keep his eyes open longer, and his wife 
sat beside him to watch. When she touched him, she 
too began to feel heavy and her head to swim, though her 
heaviness was not so strong as his, for she preserved her 
waking senses. Above their bed, which was of reeds and 
clay, was a mosquito net. In those days our beds were 
always couches of clay and reeds. 

Then the man lying as if paralysed, and unable to move 
hand or foot, saw three very small white birds flying round 
the mosquito curtain. He tried to speak and move, but 
found that he was as if dead. His wife saw him lying rigid, 
trembling, and staring, and she shook him and pulled him 
up, crying, Ushma ad Hei \ (Name of the Life !) He was 
then able to sit up. She said to him, 'I saw them, too, and 
was half frozen with fright, but not so much as you. I 
said the name of God.' 

They sat up all the rest of the night and ate and tried 
to sleep no more. When the sun was up, they felt no 
longer afraid, and slept. 

(The sun, lady, is very powerful for good! It has ten 
melki with Shamish, all mighty ones.) 

The wife said to her husband, 'Go to the ganzowra and 
ask him to exorcise you. Why should you be thus 
troubled in the night ?' For he had told her nothing of his 
spells and his knowledge of Sin. 

He answered her, 'What need have I of the ganzowra ? 
I know as much as he does !' And this was true, for he was 
a very learned man. However, to please her, he went to 
the ganzowra on the Sunday and said to him, 'What were 
those three birds which I saw in the night ? When I saw 
them, I became as helpless as if I had drunk henbane or 
were struck by paralysis. What did the apparition mean ?' 

392 Legends^ Magic, and Folk-lore 

The ganzowra was a pious man who had a garden in 
which flowers, palms, and myrtle trees grew and the river 
flowed past it. The myrtle is a very beneficial tree-, and 
useful to make klilas (see pp. 35-6). 

Now the man told the ganzowra about the birds, but 
said no word of how he had invoked Sin. However, as 
soon as the ganzowra heard of the three birds 5 he knew 
that Sin was concerned in the matter ! He said to the man, 
'Carry a zrazta and wear a skandola on your finger' (pp. 
368"). 'Then you will be able to sleep fearlessly. No 
devil or child of darkness can harm you if you are so 

The man thought this was good advice, and he provided 
himself with both, saying to himself, 'Protected thus, I 
shall at last be able to see the image of Sin without risk to 

So he began to read moon-spells again, saying in 
excuse, 'O Mara ad Rabutha (Lord of Greatness), I only 
wish to see his likeness only that!' 

Then he slept, and he saw something resembling a mist 
of white cloud, and from it issued a black shape with seven 
heads, all black with a blackness which words cannot 
describe. Further details he was unable to see. Sin has 
the power to make himself black or white by night, for his 
power is in the darkness, and it is he who incites thieves 
to steal and people to commit crimes by night. As the 
man gazed at this black shape, a white substance seemed 
to wreathe up before it like the steam of boiling water, 
and moved upwards. All that had been black suddenly 
became white, and as much as his heart had been oppressed 
before, it began to be at ease now and to rejoice. While he 
had gazed at the blackness he had felt as though he would 
choke, but when the whiteness rose before it, he could 
breathe again, and calm fell on his spirit. 

(When a man loves Hiwel Ziwa, darkness falls from 
him and light clothes him like a garment ! Light and more 
light descends upon him !) 

Now, when the man beheld Sin in this last shape, he 
understood that the force and strength of Sin comes from 

The Man who sought to see Sin, the Moon 393 

Awathur, and from that moment he began to invoke the 
powers of light, so that he might be released from darkness 
and from the evil which is darkness. 

From that time, however, he was liable to wake sud- 
denly in a fright, until he discovered that if he slept facing 
Awathur (the North Star), he could sleep peacefully. 


1 . Sin appears in a sinister light in this story. For the seven heads of the 
moon see p. 275. 

2. A magical roll. 
Narrator, Hirmiz bar Anhar. 


THE Simurgh is a 'hidden' bird, her ways are mystery. 
She lives like a queen in the mountains, but every Sunday 
she likes to fly forth and visit sons of Adam kings of 
the earth. When she approaches she is like a cloud, for 
she is big, and as soon as she is perceived coming in the 
sky, they play the big drum and the women utter joy- 
cries, and all are glad because of her coming. This was in 
the old time. Especially did the ruler to whom she made 
visit rejoice. Zal, Rustam, Kai Khosru, Sarhang, 
Afrasiab, all hoped that she might pay them a visit one 
Sunday, and used to say, 'O God! Let the Simurgh visit 
me!' These were the days of the Pehlewan. 

It happened one Sunday that the Simurgh came to visit 
Hirmiz Shah, who had prayed to his Lord that she might 
come, and had prepared a castle for her reception on a 
hill, which was set with trees and watered by clear rivers, 
and adorned with a garden. She alighted on this place, 
and when Hirmiz Shah saw her, he rejoiced greatly, and 
went to her saying, 'Be welcome ! God cause you to live ! 
A thousand joy-cries for you (Elf halla btk\)' 

In the lower room of the castle he had built for her 
and from this room one looked out on the garden and 
upon a fountain Hirmiz Shah had prepared a throne 
upon which the Simurgh could seat herself, so that she 

4363 3 E 

394 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

might rest and need not stand upon her two legs. It had 
a mattress covered with velvet, against which her breast 
might repose, and was like a nest in shape her tail came 
out behind. The fountain of water was as clear as a lump 
of ice, and the water leapt straight up into the air and was 
white and pure, and spread out like a tree. Hirmiz sat 
before the bird, and, seeing that she gazed at the fountain, 
he looked at it, and saw in the water something which 
resembled a being of light. The Simurgh knew that 
Hirmiz Shah had seen something. When she turned 
away her head and did not gaze at the water, the appear- 
ance died away. The Simurgh, aware that Hirmiz Shah 
was observing this, smiled and Hirmiz Shah smiled, too, 
for his heart felt rejoiced at that which he had seen. 

Then the servants of the Shah brought fruits of the 
mountain-country pears, quinces, and apples, and set 
them before the Simurgh in baskets. She thanked him 
and began to eat of what he had offered her. 

Said Hirmiz Shah, 'I should like to kill a sheep and 
bring it to your honour, so that your honour may eat of it.' 

She smiled and replied, 'I do not eat that which has 
breath. I eat fruit only.' 1 

After she had eaten in the beautiful place which had 
been prepared for her, Hirmiz Shah said, 'If your highness 
permits, I should like to show you how our women dance.' 

She answered, 'As you please! Favour me!' 

Now Hirmiz Shah had some maidens whom he had 
brought up from their earliest years. They were beautiful 
girls, intelligent, and carefully trained, and their voices 
were melodious and sweet. He sent for them and said, 
'I want you to dance and sing for the Simurgh.' 

They replied, 'Gladly!' and musicians were brought 
who played on the pipes, which in Iran they call ambtibi. 2 
If two or three musicians play on them in concert, the 
sound is delightful. Six pipers were brought, who played 
with the utmost skill and sweetness. The girls began to 
dance. Lady! So well did they dance that you would have 
thought them made of a piece. If they turned, it was all 
at the same instant. They bent together and rose together, 

The Simurgh and Hirmiz Shah 395" 

and turned together; all exactly in unison, not one was 
behindhand. As the Simurgh witnessed their perform- 
ance, she exclaimed, 'How cleverly they dance!' and was 
delighted with them. When the girls had finished and 
were resting, she said to Hirmiz Shah, 'I am extremely 
grateful to you for the pleasure and delight you have given 
me, and, in return, I will grant you your heart's wish!' 

Hirmiz Shah was glad and said to himself, 'God brought 
her here, and now I shall ask her the dearest wish of my 
heart!' To the Simurgh he said, 'I only ask an answer to 
one question.' 

Replied the bird, 'Speak! What is your wish?' 

Said Hirmiz to her, 'Simurgh, the sons of Adam are not 
persuaded of truth if they cannot see proofs with their eyes ! 
We are children of Adam, and if nothing is revealed to our 
eyes, we cannot speak with certainty about anything!' 

She smiled, for she knew what Hirmiz was thinking 
and wishing. 

Said Hirmiz, 'We want to see the King of Light, with 
the melki and the *uthri, so that our souls may receive 
certainty even in this world.' 

The Simurgh replied, 'How do you know that I have 
knowledge enough to grant your request?' 

Said Hirmiz, 'When I saw you gazing at the fountain, 
I knew it, for when you turned your eyes upon the water, 
I saw a Being in it, a shape of light, crowned with light, 
in the water. Sometimes it was coloured red, the colour 
of flowers, at which my heart rejoiced. Sometimes it was 
yellow, but a yellow of great beauty, sometimes green, 
sometimes turquoise and exceedingly lovely, and some- 
times blue like the robe of Ruha a most beautiful blue. 
Sometimes it was black like a cloud, but even in the deep- 
ness of that black I could perceive a Shape, for my eyes 
were not dazzled by light. I saw this when you gazed at the 
water, and I was persuaded that you have knowledge, and 
that nothing can be hidden from you!' 

The bird, the Simurgh, laughed and said, "Ajerim\ 
Bravo ! You have understood ! I have visited many kings, 
but never before have I seen one as intelligent as yourself!' 

396 Legends, Magic, and oik-lore 

Said Hirmizj 'I ask you for this boon, thai 
the King of Light, with the melki and the *i 
seeing, our hearts may believe, and rejoice an 

Answered the Slmurgh, 'Later on I will si 

Hirmiz Shah was delighted and said to t 
girls, 'I will give you money ! I will give you a 
in my treasury!' 

The dancing girls were overjoyed and said 
will bring our birds to dance before the Sin 
the girls had birds which they had trained fr< 
to dance together as if they were human. T 
the birds, which were white, sky-blue, rec 
colours, and the birds stood in a row, one bes: 
as their mistresses had trained them. The j 
to play the pipes, the girls began to dance, a 
struck their wings together in unison, like ; 
taq-taq\ It was very pretty! 

The Slmurgh was astonished at the train 
birds and the cleverness with which they 
wings in unison, and, indeed, it was a strang 

Thus the night passed in pleasant amuse: 
kind, in dancing and eating fruit and conv* 
Pehlewan and nobles and other guests sitti 
with the Shah and his guest. 

At last the morning star, Ubreyha her o 
Merikh appeared in the sky. When she 
nomads go to milk their cattle, for she is 
before dawn. The Slmurgh when she saw 
to the Shah, 'The time has come, and I will n< 
melki, and permit you to hear their voices 
cantations (//'/. how they read]. You shall s< 
appear.' She ordered two small bowls to be 1 
in the middle of each bowl was a small rece 
caused a thread to be passed through the i 
each bowl, and secured in the middle. Then 
put one bowl to her ear, and told Hirmiz to 
to his ear; and she rose and gazed at the foui 

Hirmiz looked, and, behold! seven per 
peared in the midst of the water, each of his o 


boon, that we may see 
and the *uthri, so that 
rejoice and rest!' 

I will show you!' 
I said to the dancing- 
give you all the money 

d and said to him, 'We 
>re the Slmurgh.' For 
trained from nestlings 
mman. They brought 
f-blue, red, and other 
w, one beside the other 
m. The pipers began 
b dance, and the birds 
son, like a drum, taq- 

: the training of these 
lich they struck their 
is a strange thing, 
ant amusement of this 
and conversation: the 
guests sitting together 

'ha her other name is 
Vhen she appears, the 
or she is seen shortly 
she saw the star said 
id I will now show you 
ir voices and their in- 
ou shall see how they 
wls to be brought, and 
small receptacle.3 She 
)ugh the receptacle of 
lie. Then the Slmurgh 
[irmiz to put the other 
at the fountain, 
seven personages ap- 
ch of his own kind and 

The Sin 

colour and shape. V 
their colours intern- 
exceedingly beautifi 
sound, chanted, 

Ta tali ; 

Hirmiz Shah gaze( 
be those in the world 
D/l After Ubreyi 
Hirmiz, looking, be} 
seven heads. Voices 
they were very lovely 
Personage sat thus 
on his knees). 

Then the sun app 

began to smile and ! 

'Now I shall behold t 

The bowl was at h 

ear of the Slmurgh. . 

also, and he heard an 

beauty and music lik 

better than anything h 

he saw in the midst o: 

and sweetness that he 

Akahei . 

Aka marey Aka n, 

Aka Manda t Hei! Aka A 

So great was his joy th 
him, and he cried, 'Gr 

But the Slmurgh sai 
Treasure of Life} is g 
all Life, the mother of 
from her. The birds 
the fishes praise the 
dervishes; cocks chant 
when she appears. Bu 
utter their joy at her p 

Said Hirmiz Shah, * 

ve may see 
zn, so that 
w you!' 
e dancing- 
the money 

3 him, 'We 
irgh.' For 
n nestlings 
ey brought 

and other 
le the other 
pers began 
d the birds 

drum, taq- 

ng of these 

truck their 


lent of this 

sation: the 

g together 

icr name is 
ppears, the 
jen shortly 
ic star said 
w show you 
id their in- 
how they 
rought, and 
>tacle.3 She 
iceptacle of 
he Slmurgh 
ut the other 

sonages ap- 
wn kind and 

The Slmurgh 

colour and shape. When t 
their colours interminglec 
exceedingly beautiful. T 
sound, chanted, 

Ta tali Ziwa 

Hirmiz Shah gazed and \\ 
be those in the world who 

Dz ! After Ubreyha had 
Hirmiz, looking, beheld 01 
seven heads. Voices came 
they were very lovely and 
Personage sat thus (the nc 
on his knees]. 

Then the sun appeared 
began to smile and Hirm 
'Now I shall behold that w 

The bowl was at his ear 
ear of the Slmurgh. As she 
also, and he heard and perc 
beauty and music like the 
better than anything he had 
he saw in the midst of the ^ 
and sweetness that he was e 

Aka hei . (Aka hiia 

Aka marey Aka marai 

Aka Manda t Hei! Aka Manda 

So great was his j oy that his u 
him, and he cried, 'Greater t 

But the Slmurgh said to 1 
Treasure of Life) is great ii 
all Life, the mother of all ! 
from her. The birds when 
the fishes praise the Mot 
dervishes ; cocks chant at d; 
when she appears. Bulbuls. 
utter their joy at her presen 

Said Hirmiz Shah, 'I can 

^tmurgh and Hirmiz Shah 397 

When they conversed with each other, 
rmingled, and the play of colour was 
tiful. Their voices, like a melody in 

ill 'Llwa O rays of Light, 

aghi Ziwa* Lamps of Light ! 

.zed and was amazed and cried, 'Can there 
rid who deny the existence of spirits ?' 
eyha had gone, the moon appeared, and 
beheld one sitting in the water who had 
ces came from these seven heads, and 
rely and melodious. The seven-headed 
3 (the narrator sat upright with his hands 

ippeared in the east, and the Simurgh 

id Hirmiz rejoiced, saying to himself, 

Id that which is the best of all!' 

it his ear and the other bowl was at the 

h. As she gazed at the water, he gazed 

[ and perceived sounds, voices of great 

like the sounds of flutes, a music far 

g he had ever heard before. He thought 

t of the water a woman of such beauty 

he was entranced and exclaimed, 

ka hiia There is Life 

marai There is my Lord 

ka Manda d Hiia!} There is Life Incarnate !s 

that his understanding almost flew from 
Greater than this surely does not exist !' 
i said to him, 'Simat Hei (Simat Hiia, 6 
s great indeed! She is the Mother of 
r of all ! All life in this world proceeds 
ds when they twitter, utter her praises ; 
the Mother of All Life and are her 
lant at dawn in her praise, and delight 
Bulbuls, doves, sparrows, and all birds 
er presence!' 
ih, 'I cannot confess or admit that there 

398 Legends, Magic, and Folk-lore 

can be greater than this She ! It would be difficult for me 
to do so!' 

The Slmurgh laughed. But Hirmiz Shah said, 'Yet 
I wish to see further!' 

She replied, 'You shall see further!' 

The sun turned, and arrived at the North Star. Then 
the Slmurgh prostrated herself, and began to pray, saying : 

'Then, from the Life (I ask) your mercy, your healing power, 
your radiance, your compassion, yours, Great First Life! Forgive 
me, make me whole, awake me, have compassion on this my soul, 
mine, Nimrus Zaina, for whom this prayer which I have prayed 
and these devotions shall bring forgiveness of my sins.' 

When the bird uttered the name 'Nimrus Zaina', 7 
Hirmiz Shah understood that she was none other than 
Ruha herself, for Nimrus Zaina is one of the names of 
Ruha. And he fell before her, crying, 'I crave your pro- 
tection and that of your son!' 8 

But she said to him, 'Behold, I have more things to 
show y